Groups team up to bring nutrition information to Wisconsin schools

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What's the state drink of Wisconsin? What fruit does Wisconsin grow more of than any other state?

If you answered "milk" and "cranberries," you are ready to Build a Healthy Wisconsin along with local fourth graders. Gena Cooper -- Wisconsin's 58th Alice in Dairyland -- and Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board will visit Wisconsin schools this year to lead the new Building a Healthy Wisconsin interactive classroom lesson.  The session highlights the impact of agriculture to the state and agricultural products' contribution to a healthy diet.  It is a cooperative project of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the state Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection.

Lively activities teach that the state's agriculture industry, especially dairy farming, is vital to both the economic and nutritional health of Wisconsinites.  This year's educational tour will visit fourth grade classrooms in the state's largest cities; Wausau, Eau Claire, LaCrosse, Green Bay, Racine, Kenosha, Waukesha, Madison, and Milwaukee.

Last year's program Champion Choices from Wisconsin reached 10,000 Wisconsin fourth graders in 246 classrooms.

"We are enthusiastic about this new program," said Laura Wilford, director of Wisconsin Dairy Council (WDC).  "Building a Healthy Wisconsin is a fun, action packed nutrition lesson.  It's structured to complement the basic fourth grade Wisconsin curriculum and to expand students' knowledge about agriculture, food, nutrition and exercise.  In addition, Building a Healthy Wisconsin is a perfect tie-in as school districts across the state are working to create district-wide wellness policies."

Wilford said the agricultural-packed Wisconsin map is designed with fun and enjoyment in mind, as well as learning.  As students solve riddles with a correct agricultural product or exercise answer, puzzle pieces depicting foods and exercise are added to the map -- all part of Building a Healthy Wisconsin.

The riddles feature answers that are the names of Wisconsin products -- milk, fish, apples, beef, cranberries, potatoes, strawberries, and cheese, along with exercises such as cross-county skiing near Hayward or running along Milwaukee's lakefront.

The classroom sessions also include a viewing of WMMB's video, Farm to Family, the story behind milk's remarkable journey from the farm to the kitchen table.  Accompanying exercises challenge students' mathematical skills by teaching, for instance, that the state's dairy business contributes $20.6 billion each year to Wisconsin's economy or that more than 40 percent of Wisconsin agriculture jobs are related to the dairy industry, employing more than 160,000 people.

"It's really important that students from Wisconsin's largest cities, who might be a few generations removed from the farm, recognize the significance of agriculture to the vitality and well-being of Wisconsin," said Cooper.

"It's critical to our future."

In addition to visiting schools, Alice in Dairyland makes local media appearances to discuss the program.  Cooper, from Mukwonago, is a UW-Madison graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry.  She was raised on a Wisconsin mink, corn, soybean and Clydesdale horse farm.  As Alice in Dairyland, she will travel about 40,000 miles in the next 12 months, promoting Wisconsin-made commodities and educating the public about the importance of Wisconsin agriculture.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, a nonprofit organization funded by the dairy farmers of Wisconsin, promotes the consumption of milk and other dairy products.  Wisconsin Dairy Council is the nutrition education department of WMMB.

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board


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