LYONS, NEBRASKA – In October, students in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, competed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Regional Crunch Off.
“The event is a friendly competition to see which state can pledge the most celebratory bites into crunchy, local food per capita during the month of October,” said Justin Carter, project associate with the Center for Rural Affairs. “The goal of this event is to promote the purchase and consumption of local produce as well as celebrate Farm to School Month in a creative way.”
Nebraska was victorious, totaling the most crunches per capita with 88,812 participants, 4.58 percent of the state’s population.
“The Farm to School program feeds kids, teaches kids, and inspires kids about local, nutritious food and farm life,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a co-sponsor of the federal Farm to School Act, after attending a Crunch Off event at Clinton Elementary in Lincoln. “I am very happy that the children of Nebraska will continue to benefit from this program and that our schools are embracing this opportunity to teach young people to ‘know your farmer, know your food.’”
The Nebraska crunches spent an estimated total of $14,300 on local foods. In the U.S., every dollar spent on farm to school activities generates $0.60 to $2.16 in economic activity.
Tamara Yarmon, nutrition services director at Omaha Public Schools, said the biggest challenge in supporting local producers is making the commitment. She has successfully worked with distributors to procure from Nebraska produce farmers as well as from larger local companies, such as Tecumseh Poultry.
“Procuring local food keeps people employed, highlights what’s produced in Nebraska, and shows students where their food comes from,” she said. “Local food needs to be a part of our culture, it needs to stay in the schools after folks move on or retire. You can’t think of it as a goal to achieve but as a continued effort that will last.”
“Nebraska’s Crunch Off victory is another step in helping create this culture,” Carter said.