Beef: It’s What’s for Lunch

I was really excited to attend the Midwest Farm to School Conference. Not only to learn more about Farm to School in general, but particularly getting local beef into my kids’ own school lunch, especially since my family raises beef. It only seems logical that my kids and their fellow students should be consuming beef grown just a few miles from the school house instead of mystery meat from who knows where.

My interest in serving local beef in schools was first piqued when I read a story in the Center’s Newsletter, Hemingford: Better Food, Same Cost. It featured Hemingford Public Schools and their transition from a “warm and serve” kitchen to a “made from scratch” operation. This transition included providing local fresh beef from several area ranchers.

Then several months later I heard about a Thayer County rancher, Rob Marsh, who worked to get local beef donated to his kids’ school. Marsh (who along with being a cattle producer is also lead for the Titan Beef Boosters, the beef donation program at Thayer County Community Schools) presented at the Midwest Farm to School Conference.

I took full advantage of this. In addition to taking in his presentation, I sat at his table during the “Birds of a Feathers” lunch. He was joined by Susan Dishman, Food Service Director for Thayer County Community Schools.

Together they described how the Titan Beef Booster program works, how supportive the community has been, and how much the children LOVE the BEEF! In fact, lunch participation is up on Titan Beef days by about 21 students (out of 420 students). Satisfaction in lunch on those days is often NOTICEABLY higher.

I wanted to know, “Where do I start? How do I approach my school, community, fellow cattle producers, parents?”

Marsh was very supportive and basically told me to “just do it.” He encouraged me to start talking with other beef producers, school staff such as the superintendent and the food service director and other parents.

He also encouraged me to visit the Titan Beef Boosters website where he has laid the groundwork. He has supporting documents available such as the Titan Beef program overview, letter of commitment, and a donor ACH authorization form.

I gained the insight and encouragement I need to approach my community and get them as excited and fired up about getting Farm to School and local beef in our school as I am! I have a long way to go, but being able to use the Titan Beef Booster program as a model to replicate will make the journey much easier.

Feature image: Burgers sizzle on the grill as folks gather to celebrate of Thayer Central Community School’s Titan Beef Boosters local beef program.