“Wisconsin” is practically synonymous with “cheese.” It’s only natural, given that the state is affectionately nickamed “America’s Dairyland,” its cheesemakers nab more major awards than any other, and its residents proudly don wedge-shaped hats.
But take a look at Wisconsin’s official symbols, and curds are nowhere to be found. (We know, we’re shocked, too.) Milk has been the state’s official beverage since 1987. The humble dairy cow has had the honor of being Wisconsin’s official domestic animal since 1971. Even foods like the kringle pastry have achieved a legitimate state designation.
Thanks to a movement sparked by some local fourth graders, though, cheese might finally become Wisconsin’s official dairy product.
The effort got its start at Mineral Point Elementary School in Mineral Point, Wis. According to a Food & Wine article, the kids were learning about the official state symbols when they realized cheese was missing from the list. Three teachers then tasked them with a presentation project that would propose cheese as Wisconsin’s official dairy product. The kids quickly got wrapped up in their assignment, to the point where teacher Livia Doyle explains they “wanted to stay in from recess to practice [their presentation]!”
Their project wasn’t just for a grade, though. They presented it to Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Todd Novak, who visited Mineral Point just to hear the students out. The lawmakers ended up believing in the idea so much that they drafted a bill to present to the state legislature. Last Thursday, the 57 students and their teachers were invited to present their research to the Assembly Agriculture Committee and the Senate Committee on Government Operations. The committees voted unanimously to move it forward, and the full Assembly is scheduled to convene on April 4 to discuss this bill.
Doyle’s class is not the first group of students to show how important food is in symbolizing Wisconsin. In 2003, fourth graders from Kenosha County successfully advocated for cranberries to be named the state’s official fruit. No doubt Mineral Point’s students are hoping to achieve the same outcome.