Author: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Technology, logistics make food-scrap composting in Wisconsin a challenge

The University of Wisconsin and the city of Madison have struggled to turn tons of cast-off food into soil. Three Madison companies fill some of the gap.

By Charlie Hildebrand and Riley Sumner  Wisconsin Watch  Until recently, the University of Wisconsin-Madison had a successful program to compost discarded food.   Starting in 2009, the university collected food scraps at campus cafeterias to send to the West Madison Agricultural…

Recovery programs seek to solve food waste – and insecurity – in Wisconsin

Charities disagree on whether restaurant and grocery store food diverted from the landfill should be served to people in need.

By Charlie Hildebrand and Riley Sumner Wisconsin Watch  Driving a university-owned van, University of Wisconsin-Madison student Morgan Barlin traverses the campus, making stops at three dining halls on a spring afternoon.   At each stop, Barlin is met by kitchen staff who…

Research seeks ways to grow solar and crops together in the skeptical Corn Belt

Much Midwest land that could be used for solar power is tied up in row crops. Researchers examine how to build solar panels without taking out cropland.

By Sarah Bowman Indianapolis Star Brittney J. Miller The Gazette and Joshua Rosenberg The Lens Acres of corn stand tall on both sides of a narrow country road in northwest Indiana. It’s late August and the corn is tasseling, its…

Bureaucracy is a barrier as Wisconsin cities try to curb deadly driving on urban highways

Milwaukee seeks compromise with state transportation officials to redesign deadly highways running through town.

By Jonah Chester WPR/Wisconsin Watch 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…

Wisconsin districts seek solutions as school lunch quality comes under fire

‘I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it’: National supply chain and labor shortages have led to worse meals — and a new push to go local

By Erin Gretzinger Wisconsin Watch 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.…

Mobile markets bring fresh food to Wisconsin customers

Retrofitted semi-trailers carrying produce, dairy and meat bring needed fresh food to underserved areas — but the economics are daunting

By Lauryn Azu and Joe States Wisconsin Watch 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…

Wisconsin’s French Island faces stark choices as PFAS water crisis lingers

A lifeline could disappear due to a pollution lawsuit that has implications for the 1.7 million Wisconsinites who rely on private wells.

By Bennet Goldstein Wisconsin Watch Jim Boisen and Margie Walker conceived of their single-story residence as a “forever home.” They moved in 1979 to Wisconsin’s French Island, an unincorporated community of 4,300. Sandwiched between the Black and Mississippi rivers in…

Testing the waters: How groups monitor toxic algae in the absence of state testing

Toxic blue-green algae can sicken people and animals. Few states have routine testing programs to check for algae, so some local and volunteer groups are stepping in to fill that gap.

Eva Tesfaye Harvest Public Media Living on Lake Wawasee in northern Indiana, Cindy Peterson remembers it was once a sparkling clean lake. “In the spring, you can see the bottom. It’s perfectly clear, very few weeds, beautiful,” she said. “And…

Midwest summer nights are heating up — and that’s hurting crops and livestock

Warm nights this summer hurt farmers and ranchers in Wisconsin and across the Midwest. It’s a long-term trend that’s expected to continue.

By Eva Tesfaye Harvest Public Media Climate experts say summer nights have gotten warmer. One study found the average minimum temperature in the United States has gotten warmer by 2.5 degrees over the last 50 years. For farmers, this means…

Wisconsin: Land of plenty includes plenty 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.

By Lauryn Azu and Joe States Wisconsin Watch 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…

Two couples sue former UW child abuse doctor for alleged misdiagnoses

Dr. Barbara Knox left Wisconsin and Alaska amid allegations of workplace bullying and wrongful diagnoses of child abuse; she now practices in Florida.

By Hope Karnopp Wisconsin Watch Shortly after former University of Wisconsin Dr. Barbara Knox left Alaska in April, two sets of parents filed a federal lawsuit alleging Knox made “false accusations” of child abuse against them. The suit names Knox,…

Wisconsin’s 173-year-old ban allows only life-saving ‘therapeutic abortions.’ No one knows what that means.

Physicians criticize the law as outdated, vague and severe. Health systems are scrambling to guide them on how to stay out of criminal trouble.

By Phoebe Petrovic  Wisconsin Watch  The patient sat in Dr. Shefaali Sharma’s exam room, distraught. She was pregnant with her third child. Just weeks earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had revoked the federally protected, constitutional right to an abortion, restoring…

‘I had to speak up’: Two Northwoods friends push Wisconsin DNR to protect lakeshore forests

A retired forester and a writer say the DNR allows logging perilously close to lakes. State officials disagree. Now the agency’s auditor is being audited.

By tanka dhakal Wisconsin Watch   Wearing blue jeans, a short-sleeved button-down shirt and a look of dismay, John Schwarzmann stood near the shore of Whitney Lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin. He didn’t like what he saw so close to the…

As universal free school meals end, are Wisconsin families ready for it?

Elected officials and advocates debate the fate of free school meals that provided relief to families during the pandemic.

By Erin Gretzinger and Maddie Bergstrom Wisconsin Watch The COVID-19 pandemic forced students to pack up their bags and switch from whiteboards to laptops. Empty schools meant empty cafeterias. Until the pandemic, Jana Goodman, a mother of three and longtime…

Bomb threats, canceled events, empty schools: How a bullying probe paralyzed a Wisconsin town’s democracy

The Kiel school district’s closure of a Title IX investigation under pressure sends a ‘chilling message’ expert says. Some residents want a more tolerant Kiel.

By Mario Koran Wisconsin Watch On the day of the third bomb threat, Kiel’s middle school stood empty. Students had gone home days ago after the first bomb threat, and they would finish the school year virtually. Graduation ceremonies…

‘When it’s rigid, it breaks’: How federal rules and market dominance fueled Wisconsin's baby formula shortage

The Women, Infants, and Children program funds about half of U.S. formula purchases. Wisconsin contracts only with Abbott Nutrition, whose recall and plant shutdown jolted the market.

By Hope Karnopp Wisconsin Watch On a mid-June weekend, Raquel Urbina made seven trips to Milwaukee-area grocery stores in search of the hypoallergenic baby formula she needs to feed her 10-month-old daughter. She had little time to spare. Her monthly…

Among Wisconsin’s jobless, Black applicants half as likely as whites to receive pandemic aid

Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system buckled for many during the pandemic, with people of color less likely than whites to receive federal help, an audit found.

Jacob Resneck / Wisconsin Watch A federal audit has uncovered what researchers into Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system have long suspected: People of color are less likely to receive jobless compensation than their white counterparts. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development…

‘Toxic work environment’ in Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office pushes employees to the brink

Staffers say county refused action as yelling, insults and unrelenting demands damaged their mental health; alleged behavior causes other counties to cut ties

By Brenda Wintrode  Wisconsin Watch The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office in April rehired an unpopular former operations director, prompting his shocked colleagues to make public longstanding complaints that he and his bosses created “a toxic work environment” that top…

Embattled former UW child abuse pediatrician resigns Alaska position

Parents and caregivers say their lives were upended after Dr. Barbara Knox wrongly diagnosed children’s illnesses or accidental injuries as abuse

By Michelle Theriault Boots  Anchorage Daily News  Brenda Wintrode  Wisconsin Watch  The embattled head of Alaska’s statewide child abuse forensic clinic — who also left the University of Wisconsin under a cloud of controversy — will soon resign, Providence Alaska…

Wisconsin state parks battered as Lake Michigan shrinks beaches, smashes boardwalks

The state Department of Natural Resources is weighing a fundamental question: Preserve land or let nature take its course?

By Mario Koran Wisconsin Watch/WPR  Lake Michigan’s winds and waves have sculpted the landscape of Whitefish Dunes State Park, a must-see treasure along Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. Water delivers fine sand to a shoreline that supports threatened plants like the dune…