Schoolchildren are missing out on the protein power and nutritional benefits of beef, says Mark Russell, executive director of the Missouri Beef Industry Council.
Russell says with nearly 50% of the recommended daily value for protein, and more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients in a 3-ounce serving, beef is a nutritional powerhouse that students need.
So MBIC, along with the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), is leading an initiative to get more beef in schools across the state — with the support of local beef producers, meat processors and Opaa Food Management. The MoBeef for MoKids program connects local schools with area producers and processors that donate the beef product to be used in the school lunch program.
Russell answers a few questions about the MoBeef for MoKids program.
GET EXCITED: Posters throughout the school cafeteria alert kids to the addition of beef on the menu.
What is the goal of MoBeef for MoKids? To directly increase the amount of beef consumed by children, which helps to supply essential nutrients so necessary for growing children. The initial programs established a goal to double the beef in a school at no increase in cost to the school lunch programs or school lunch costs. In some cases, that goal has been exceeded.
Is the program just about adding beef to the school lunch menu? No. MBIC focuses on the need for children to understand and learn where their food comes from. We use the MoBeef for MoKids program to segue into schools with three programs currently. 1. Ag Education on the Move, partnering with Missouri Farmers Care, for third-graders, 2. Beef in the Classroom for FACS programs and ProStart culinary programs in high school and 3. developing relationships with school districts in junior high and middle schools about STEM opportunities through ag careers.
How many schools are participating? So far, the growth in schools has been solid. In the 2018 school year, it launched with one pilot school. This school year, we believe there will be 18 serving by May. That number could easily double or triple by this time next year.
Who funds MoBeef for MoKids? Funding is balanced from several places. MBIC and MDA are behind the scenes providing logistical and resource support for schools. MDA is our primary source for supplying rancher posters in the lunchrooms, banners for the schools and public relations. MBIC has focused on meeting with the schools, school food service, school boards, county cattlemen’s associations and local producers to garner cooperation and collaboration. We also have helped in off-setting the costs of meals at the launches. Local cattlemen and/or businesses are donating animals. Either the schools or school food service contractors are paying the processing costs for the animals.
How can MoBeef for MoKids start in a school that does not have the program? There are several different paths to getting started. Local cattlemen and producers can reach out to their schools as patrons and introduce the idea to school administrators, or producers can also reach out to MDA or MBIC for help.
Next, school superintendents, food service folks, administrators and school boards need to be informed about the program opportunities. Then a state or federally inspected processor, relatively close to a school district, will need to agree to process and package the beef according to school requirements.
Typically, several partners get involved, but it is very rewarding to see communities getting involved with their local schools in a very unique and wonderful way.
For information about MoBeef for MoKids, visit missourigrownusa.com.