'Farm to School' program set to start in Sidney

Local beef to be donated to schools


Sidney schools will be serving locally produced beef in their cafeterias this year.

A partnership between the Sidney Public School District, the Cheyenne County Farm Bureau and local beef producers was announced at a school board meeting this week.

Jennifer Gipfert, a farm bureau representative, said for the first year, she is expecting the school district to receive 15 animals.

Through the agreement, the farm bureau will work to seek donations of cattle from local producers. The only cost to the school district will be the transportation and processing of the beef to a USDA-certified facility in Sterling, Colo.

Gipfert said the plan calls for making five trips a year to the processing facility, with three animals each time. The first three donations have already been committed, she added.

Besides providing free beef to the district for school lunches, the program will entail an educational element to raise awareness about agriculture.

“We want to teach more about agriculture,” Gipfert said. “We think it’s important in our community.”

Superintendent Jay Ehler said the classroom component of “Farm to School” is still being developed, but the goal is to grow students’ knowledge of agriculture.

“We do have Skills USA, which does have a lot of agriculture-based components,” he said. “So that could be one avenue.”

Elementary school students also take a field trip to a farm during the school year, he added.

“I think these are the kinds of things we’ll expand on,” Ehler said.

Gipfert said the farm bureau could help suggest topics that could be incorporated into classroom learning.

“We don’t want to give teachers more work, we want to help them,” she said. “[Agriculture] is our No. 1 industry in Nebraska, why aren’t we promoting it more?”

Gene Russell, assistant principal at North and South elementary schools, first discussed the possibility of starting a “Farm to School” program in Sidney at a school board meeting in May.

“It’s a way to support local food in our school system,” he said at the time.

Because the district doesn’t have the equipment needed to cook hamburgers – hamburgers served now are purchased pre-cooked – for the upcoming year, all of the meat will be processed into ground beef.

At a June school board meeting, Ehler said the equipment required to prepare hamburgers from the donated cattle would cost around $10,000.

“For this year, we’re just going to get ground beef,” he said in June. “Hamburger Day, once or twice a month, will continue with what we’ve done [in past] years.”

On Tuesday, board members said they were excited about the program.

“This is a great thing for us and the farm bureau,” Doug Means said.

Gipfert said her organization would develop, in conjunction with the school district, a donation system to ensure the sustainability of the “Farm to School” initiative.

“I think it’s going to be a really good thing,” she said. “And we want it to be a self-sustaining program.”


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