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Beef in School program rolls out in Burke


F.Ganje - January 10, 2019

BURKE, SD – It’s a red letter day in Burke as they role out the grill and hamburger buns.

That, in and of itself, isn’t really the main accomplishment but the fact the Burke School District will be serving locally sourced beef as part of it’s lunch menu today, is.  Superintendent Erik Person has more.

“It’s a vision a group of local cattlewomen have had for a number of years, wanting to get local beef into our schools,” he shares. “It was slow going at first because school lunch programs – through federal mandates – are just choked to death with regulations.”

Beef in Schools programs are fairly new and especially so here in beef country.  Which didn’t set right with the local South Dakota Cattlewomen’s organization, the Rosebud Ranchettes.  Superintendent Person credits the group of 20 women for getting the ball rolling. Sara Grim, who ranches north of Bonesteel with her family talks about the journey.

“We felt this was very important,” says Grim who began researching serving local beef about two years ago. “ We’re frustrated with the type of food our kids are eating in the school lunch program and the amount of waste.  Kids aren’t eating what’s offered.  We also knew much of the food was heavily processed – not fresh, homegrown beef.”

In South Dakota, the Wall School District helped pave the way for Beef in Schools being the first school district to successfully incorporate the concept into its lunch program.  And there are active Beef in Schools programs in neighboring states of Nebraska and Montana.

“I think Mr. Person told you that our first meal for the Burke School District is Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 and he his personally grilling the burgers.  He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s 20 below our first meal is going to be grilled burgers.’ So we’re excited about that.”

Figuring out all the rules and regulations of the federal lunch program aside, how procurement will work is also a factor.  But both the Burke and Wall school districts are getting that done as well, moving their student population that much closer to a sustainable, fresh American beef lunch menu.

“We have to follow a lot of strict rules about procurement, about labeling of product, you have to jump through a lot of hoops to just get regular, local beef in the program,” he noted.

Firing up the grill has taken on a whole, new meaning for the Burke School District where it’s hoped today’s Cheeseburger cookout lunch will set the stage for a better fed student population and a better informed one.

“We want to do a local beef cookoff this spring,” shares Person. “There are a number of guidelines for a recipe that will qualify for the school lunch program.  This cookoff will be a contest using recipes that fit the criteria.”

He added, If schools work together, there’s no reason why we couldn’t all share recipes for the including locally sourced beef.  I think we could improve the quality and taste of our meals.  It would be like a beef network across South Dakota.”



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