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Author: Wisconsin Watch

Bad Lunches: Wisconsin school districts seek to improve deteriorating quality of student meals

When Sadie Perez entered Indian Trail High School and Academy on a November morning, school work was not on her mind. Instead, the then-junior was focused on an upcoming speech to the Kenosha School Board. She planned to bring a pressing concern to their next meeting, bad lunches. Like the majority of schools in Wisconsin, the Kenosha Unified School District offered free meals to students during the 2021-22 academic year. But Perez and other students started to notice smaller portions, what appeared to be undercooked meat and fruit and vegetables covered with dark spots. “The burgers that we had,...

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Mobile Markets: Bringing fresh food directly to customers in underserved areas of Milwaukee

For Shirley Johnson, getting groceries is not easy. Johnson, a 64-year-old retiree who lives alone in Milwaukee, does not own a vehicle and has to rely on others to get food. She often calls her daughter or other family members who live in the city, hoping to catch a ride to the grocery store. But if they are tied up or busy, Johnson has to pay someone to take her shopping — except when the store comes to her. Once a month, Johnson waits for a long, colorful semi-trailer hitched to a truck to pull up at the Highland...

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Wisconsin residents still face decades-old barriers in qualifying for Federal food aid assistance

Although she has been receiving federal food assistance for around 15 years, Madison resident Elizabeth Blume has never eaten government cheese. She has heard horror stories from people who have, though. “There was just this big block of (…) something gelatinous that was orange,” Blume said. Today, federal food programs no longer rely on surplus dairy products to feed food-insecure Americans. Eligibility requirements have been loosened, there are easier payment options, and the current system provides users with more choice and dignity. While Blume, 39, has more choice than early commodity recipients, it’s still hard to maintain a balanced...

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A land of plenty: Even with abundant agricultural resources Wisconsin has a multitude of food deserts

Large parts of Milwaukee and rural Wisconsin lack easy access to groceries. The state, cities and communities are working to change that. When Tony Moore wants to make a quick grocery run, his options are limited. Most of the foods that fill the shelves in his Kenosha, Wisconsin neighborhood are laden with sugar and fat — chips, soda and other sweets. Moore calls it the kind of food you eat to just “fill your stomach.” It’s the only food he can find at a gas station, after all. In Moore’s neighborhood, two large grocery stores have closed since 2017,...

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Health Risks: Why people living along many Wisconsin waterways face increased Nitrate pollution

Nitrate compounds were the top toxic substances released into U.S. waterways in 2020, including the Mississippi River, according to a recent study conducted by an environmental policy and advocacy group. Industries — primarily petroleum refineries and meat and poultry processing facilities — discharged more than 175 million pounds of nitrates that year, comprising 91% of all toxic chemicals released by weight in the U.S., according to the report’s analysis of federal data. The findings pose particular relevance to the Mississippi River basin, which drains a 31-state watershed and conveys nitrates and other chemicals to the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrates...

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Deadly Driving: Milwaukee works at overcoming state bureaucratic barriers to make urban highways safer

Tristain Thomas remembers seeing plenty of reckless driving while living along Milwaukee’s West Fond du Lac Avenue during his childhood. A police officer would park just blocks away from Thomas’ home in the Grasslyn Manor neighborhood to catch drivers barreling down the four-lane state highway. “He would sit there for eight to 10 hours every day, pulling people over constantly, because they’re just flying down the street with no regard for anyone else,” Thomas, 40, recalled. Thomas now lives in Appleton, Wisconsin, but the reckless driving hasn’t stopped along West Fond du Lac Avenue, which doubles as State Highway...

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