When Ellsworth County, Kansas beef producer Michelle Brokes presented the idea of working with local beef producers to offer more beef on the school lunch tray to her fellow school board members, the reception was resoundingly positive.
“With the federally mandated regulations that have been imposed over the last several years, we were seeing more prepackaged food being served (in the school lunch program),” Brokes said, “We thought if we could put more beef on the menu it would be a win-win for everyone.”
After gaining local support, Brokes contacted the Kansas Department of Education’s Farm to School program, where the effort was also was met with support. Brokes said the program was easy to get started because of the number of producers and families excited to be a part it.
The donation process is simple: producers donate and transport the live animal to a local processing plant. The school district is responsible for informing the processor of which cuts to provide — typically hamburger and roasts. The district pays for processing and transporting the meat to school freezers.
“For us, the biggest thing was being able to give our (district’s) kids the highest quality of protein. And we are raising that right here in Ellsworth County,” Brokes said.
Four families in the district have donated live animals, and the program has garnered statewide attention. The program is new to the Central Plains school district, but it’s being implemented throughout the state.
In addition to local efforts led by ranchers like Brokes, the Kansas Beef Council and the Kansas Corn Commission partner annually with Kansas high school and middle school foods classes to buy beef used in classes and teaching labs. The program reimburses teachers using beef in class. Last year, more than 15,000 students at roughly 116 schools were impacted by the program.
For those interested in donating beef to their local schools, the beef council can help. To learn more about beef nutrition, including lean cuts of beef, and emerging human nutrition research, visit www.kansasbeef.org.w