Series

Schools have long served meals to students in programs supported by state and federal policies, but there's rising interest in using foods grown and raised closer to home. Farm-to-school programs aim to improve the nutrition of schoolchildren and teach them about agriculture, health, business and more. These efforts are likewise structured to create new markets for growers in nearby communities. Schools across Wisconsin have implemented farm-to-school projects and curricula. But the programs take a wide variety of forms, and making them work often requires schools, farmers and advocates to build complex new relationships and infrastructure.More
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Fleeing conflict and persecution around the world, refugees are a small but significant part of Wisconsin's population. While it's not the biggest destination for resettlement in the United States, the state is home to thousands of people who arrived as refugees from several dozen countries. A Hmong community took root across Wisconsin in the 1970s, and a small Somali community settled in rural Barron County in the 1990s, but large numbers of refugees from countries including Burma, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have arrived in the 21st century. People seeking refugee status in the U.S. — which is distinct from other kinds of immigration — have gone through an extensive vetting process, but a rise of xenophobia and new federal policies threaten to make their position more uncertain.More
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Wisconsin's wealth of freshwater is foundational to the state's agricultural economy. As livestock farms in the state grow ever larger in the 21st century, their impact on this resource is growing. The largest of these farms are termed concentrated animal feeding operations, often called CAFOs. These farms with hundreds or thousands of animals not only require more water, but they also produce colossal amounts of manure. Managing this livestock byproduct is a major undertaking. Manure can serve as a resource for fertilizing crops or for generating energy. At the same time, this waste regularly enters surface and groundwater, contaminating wells and wildlife habitat. How manure is handled is a focus of policymaking, and its increasing volumes can contribute to contentious relationships between CAFO operators and their neighbors.More
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Rural life poses distinct obstacles when it comes to improving health outcomes. The reality of distance is paramount — getting to and from doctors' offices and hospitals requires more time, and when there is an emergency, that issue becomes acute. A related concern is the availability of healthcare providers across broader areas, particularly in places where population is decreasing. Moreover, rural populations are increasingly becoming proportionally older than the state as a whole, compounding difficulties related to mobility, specialized treatment and end-of-life care. Public health efforts in rural communities focus on preventive goals that are both universal and particular to specific groups of people or conditions. As the demographics, economy and environment of rural Wisconsin shifts, so do the health needs of its people.More
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Nearly everything about wolves is controversial. Wisconsin is one of about a dozen states with a gray wolf population. After being hunted to the brink of extinction in most states, the state granted the species legal protections in the 1950s, followed by federal listing in the 1970s. Since then, wolf numbers have not only recovered, but they've seen a relative boom in population. These predators play a big role in their ecosystem by feeding on deer and other prey, but their hunts also cross paths with livestock, causing grievances among ranchers and farmers. A hunting season was briefly opened in the early 2010s, and there is plenty of other proposed legislation surrounding their management. Wolves also claim strong support among advocates for continued protection. Whatever policies are in place, this charismatic species drives public passion and scientific interest.More
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