REAP Food Group, a Madison-based non-profit, has launched an initiative that will change how locally-grown produce makes its way to the plates of southern Wisconsin’s most vulnerable residents. Workers will now process fresh produce in Madison College’s Culinary Arts kitchen, and REAP will distribute it to local institutions that feed 39,000 people per day.
This project brings together UW Health, UW Dining and the Madison Metropolitan School District to increase the amount of local, sustainably-grown produce purchased from Wisconsin farms and served to individuals who use these institutions.
“Small farms in Wisconsin don’t have the capacity to wash, chop and bag fresh local produce to supply anchor institutions,” Brianna Fiene, REAP’s Farm to Business director, said. “Hospitals, universities and schools also lack the ability to process fresh locally-grown produce.”
These organizations are forced to purchase non-local, pre-processed items from outside the state while local farmers struggle to establish local markets in Madison. REAP will bridge that gap by sourcing, washing, chopping and bagging fresh local produce to supply the need in Madison.
Institutional partners for the project have committed to purchase more than $100,000 worth of value-added produce from the project in its first year. This produce will be served to hospital patients and their families; university students, faculty and staff; and Madison public school students, faculty and staff.
“We look forward to having locally-grown broccoli and cauliflower again this growing season,” said Megan Waltz, director of culinary services for UW Health. “It gives our culinary staff the opportunity to use their creativity to showcase these produce items in many unique ways.”