Coming through for healthy food

SFHS food project nets $25,000 grant
by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor


THE SHEBOYGAN FALLS SCHOOL FOUNDATION recently accepted a $25,000 grant from the State Farm Cause An Effect program. Members of the Sheboygan Falls community cast votes in the nationwide competition via Facebook for the End Food Injustice program, which is a garden project developed through a partnership between the food science class at Sheboygan Falls High School, the Sheboygan Falls School Foundation and the new non-profit organization Restoration Farms. Students and teachers from the Sheboygan Falls High School food science class and administrative staff, as well as representatives from the Sheboygan Falls School Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Restoration Gardens, Bemis and Jos. Schmitt and Sons Construction recently gathered to mark the special occasion. Pictured left to right are (front row) Jeris Nigh, Kendra Hass, Chrissy Halbach, David Bohlmann, Krystal Binversie, Samantha Oppeneer, Lizzie Widder; (second row) Jade Tenpas, Amber Knutson, Justine Selk, Brandon Broetzmann, Sawyer Boldt; (third row) Cody Nysse, Luke Goral (SFHS principal), Bruce Brunner (SFHS agriculture teacher), Sue Erdmann (End Food Injustice grant writer), Greg Bovre (State Farm Insurance), Steve Schmitt (Jos. Schmitt and Sons Construction), Diana Woodworth (SFHS family and consumer education teacher); (fourth row) John Blattner (Sheboygan Falls School Foundation, Blattner’s Piggly Wiggly), Cindy Joa (Restoration Farms), Craig Harms (Restoration Farms), John Herzog (Bemis Foundation), Terry Van Engen (Sheboygan Falls School Foundation). - Falls News photo by Jeff Pederson THE SHEBOYGAN FALLS SCHOOL FOUNDATION recently accepted a $25,000 grant from the State Farm Cause An Effect program. Members of the Sheboygan Falls community cast votes in the nationwide competition via Facebook for the End Food Injustice program, which is a garden project developed through a partnership between the food science class at Sheboygan Falls High School, the Sheboygan Falls School Foundation and the new non-profit organization Restoration Farms. Students and teachers from the Sheboygan Falls High School food science class and administrative staff, as well as representatives from the Sheboygan Falls School Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Restoration Gardens, Bemis and Jos. Schmitt and Sons Construction recently gathered to mark the special occasion. Pictured left to right are (front row) Jeris Nigh, Kendra Hass, Chrissy Halbach, David Bohlmann, Krystal Binversie, Samantha Oppeneer, Lizzie Widder; (second row) Jade Tenpas, Amber Knutson, Justine Selk, Brandon Broetzmann, Sawyer Boldt; (third row) Cody Nysse, Luke Goral (SFHS principal), Bruce Brunner (SFHS agriculture teacher), Sue Erdmann (End Food Injustice grant writer), Greg Bovre (State Farm Insurance), Steve Schmitt (Jos. Schmitt and Sons Construction), Diana Woodworth (SFHS family and consumer education teacher); (fourth row) John Blattner (Sheboygan Falls School Foundation, Blattner’s Piggly Wiggly), Cindy Joa (Restoration Farms), Craig Harms (Restoration Farms), John Herzog (Bemis Foundation), Terry Van Engen (Sheboygan Falls School Foundation). - Falls News photo by Jeff Pederson Building safer, stronger and better educated communities has been the ongoing goal of the State Farm Cause An Effect program since its inception.

With a garden project titled “End Food Injustice,” students in the food science class at Sheboygan Falls High School, as well as members of the Sheboygan Falls School Foundation and the new non-profit organization Restoration Farms, are on their way to achieving that goal in the community of Sheboygan Falls.

After being selected among 3,000 entries from across the U.S., the Sheboygan Falls project earned a spot as one of 100 finalists in the Cause An Effect contest.

Thanks to over 17,000 votes cast by local supporters on State Farm Facebook page, the “End Food Injustice” project earned enough votes to rank among the top 40 causes in the country.

As a result, the Sheboygan Falls project was awarded a $25,000 grant to use to support its “End Food Injustice” initiative.

The State Farm Cause An Effect program is a youth-led, crowdsourced philanthropic initiative that relies on local, non-profit organizations to create solutions to community issues identified by people who use Facebook.

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board, comprised of a diverse group of 30 students passionate about social responsibility, reviewed the cause submissions and helped State Farm select the top 100 finalists. State Farm then identified and paired non-profits with each cause.

The original “End Food Injustice” garden program concept got off the ground in 2009 when Craig Harms, the owner of Restoration Gardens, a landscape and retail business in Sheboygan, and the founder of Restoration Farms, offered 5 acres of land near his home to service the agriculture and food science classes at Sheboygan Falls High School

“This originally began when I got together with Bruce Brunner, the horticulture teacher at Sheboygan Falls High School,” Harms said. “We started to talk about how he felt that his students were in need of a pertinent hands-on application of the concepts they were studying. After talking about it quite a bit, I donated 5 acres of land to serve as an outdoor classroom for the horticulture program. Things just kind of took off.”

Through a burgeoning committed to creating a sustainable future through producing and distributing healthy foods, students in Brunner’s food science class at SFHS set a goal to makeover the school’s lunch menu with a salad bar stocked with fresh produce grown from their food science garden project.

The students’ original aim was to provide healthy food to classmates who eat their main, and in some cases, only meal of the day at school.

“The students did a great job initiating the program and targeting a big need in their school and their community,” Harms said. “There are many kids that are in need of a good meal and they don’t get it at home. There are kids that don’t get a good meal at all and others that live on processed foods that are basically junk. It is a sad testament to what is going on today.”

Realizing that the project was in need of additional funding in order to consistently supply the Falls lunch line and the surrounding community with fresh, healthy food choices, the students decided to enter the State Farm Cause An Effect program to pursue the $25,000 grant.

“Up until now, this group has been scraping by with local donations from John Blattner of Blattner’s Piggly Wiggly, the Bemis Foundation, Steve Schmitt from Jos. Schmitt and Sons Construction, John Mauer of the Sheboygan Falls School Board, Cindy Joa and Craig Harms of Restoration Gardens and in-kind donations from local residents,” said Sue Erdmann of Sheboygan Falls, who wrote the grant for the “End Food Injustice” project. “This group has done a tremendous job in supporting the project by donating cash and in-kind services that amount to over $85,000 dollars.”

The goal of the “End Food Injustice” initiative is to continue to expand the project so more youth and adults can grow food and form communities dedicated to healthy living and environmental responsibility.

“Right now we have four gardens that we are using for the program through the Restoration Farms organization,” Harms said. “We have one on the high school property, one at the Miley property near Sheboygan Falls Elementary School, one near my home on Willow Road and one next to RCS in Sheboygan.

“We raise tomatoes, peppers, squash, herbs, broccoli, onions, carrots, onion and garlic at these sites,” he said. “The goal in the future is to expand the high school site to allow for increased food production to assist closely with the ‘End Food Injustice’ program. There have also been discussions about adding a greenhouse at the high school to protect from frost and extend the growing season.”

SFHS students, in collaboration with Restoration Farms, also hope to create a mobile farmers market that distributes produce to surrounding areas in Sheboygan County.

In addition to assisting the community in bolstering nutrition levels, the project has given SFHS students a hands-on perspective on prospective career paths.

“Another program objective is for participants to learn about viable career options in culinary arts, agriculture, business, and discover opportunities for micro-enterprise development,” Erdmann said. “This project has provided an excellent opportunity for doing that.”

According to Greg Bovre of State Farm Insurance in Sheboygan Falls, the Cause An Effect program has made a difference in many people’s lives throughout the county.

“It is an excellent program that strives to make our communities better educated about important issues and aspects of society,” Bovre said. “The program is really student-driven with the Youth Advisory Board of 30 students from across the United States making the decisions on the top projects.

“It has been great to see how the youth of Sheboygan Falls has gotten involved and designed such a great project that will make our community safer, stronger and just generally better off in the future,” he said.


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