Photo (CC 2.0) by Benn Wolfe, on Flickr
I don’t know about you but Thanksgiving just seems to focus on food. It starts with turkey for many of us and just goes on.
Which makes me ask a question. (Put your answers in the comment box.)
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?
The Extension system, and the land-grant system of universities and colleges of which Extension is a part, are involved in all aspects of food from growing it to processing, preparation, and safety. So it seemed like the perfect topic to highlight as we approach Thanksgiving. Let’s take a look at one effort.
Teresa Wiemerslage is part of the Iowa State Extension effort working to build local foods and on-farm food safety.
Iowa State has several resources that might help others with their local food efforts. These include:
She also released this article on a local foods effort:
Schools celebrate Beef Month with local beef
The smell of the grill wafted slowly down the hallways. Curious students and staff stuck their head out of classrooms, eager for lunch to arrive. “Oh my gosh,” one student exclaimed, “It smells so good!” “I’m starving!”
It was just before eleven, and the smell of the cooking burgers was delicious, distracting, and too good to be ignored.
What was the occasion for the barbecue? May is Beef Month. To celebrate, Waukon High School and Jr. High students ate local beef grilled by Allamakee County Cattlemen and food service staff on May 7.
While the afternoon went quickly and burgers easily devoured, the event took much planning and coordination. It takes a village, as they say, to bring the beef to students’ lunch trays.
Teresa Wiemerslage, food systems coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach made the event possible. The beef was from a cow born and raised in Allamakee County. Grant funding given to the Iowa Food Hub from USDA Farm to School and Allamakee County Community Foundation covered the cost of processing.
“We use cull beef cows for Farm to School to provide an affordable product, and we use a state-inspected locker,” said Wiemerslage. “This is the third cow we’ve sourced for schools, and the kids really seem to love it.”
Food Service Director Julie Magner was willing to buy the beef and have her staff prep it. The Allamakee County Cattleman’s Association grilled the burgers. Two beef princesses form the county helped count and serve burger patties during lunch (and one is a current student at the high school)!
“Without all of these partners, the local beef would not have been possible,” said Ashley Turk, FoodCorps service member. The district partners with the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative to have Turk assist with Farm to School and garden, nutrition, and wellness education at each of its centers.
“It’s not everyday students enjoy beef from a local farm and processed at a locker in town. That money from the sale and processing stays within the county, helping fund local businesses and people. While students were enjoying a tasty lunch, they had little idea the impact their meal has on their school district,” she said.
Students had no beef with the beef on their trays. When asked what they thought of their burgers, students said, “It’s really good,” and “I wish we could have grilled burgers every day.”
To be honest, most did not answer, their mouths were too full of food. The real test of the lunch came when students went to throw away their trays. Nearly all were completely empty. It appears there were many satisfied customers.
Magner reported that the day was the highest lunch count of the year.
The Allamakee Cattlemen hauled their grill to Postville schools the following week and Winneshiek cattlemen fired up their grills in front of Decorah high school a few days later. In the end, 3100 kids had local beef on their plates because of the efforts of these local partners.
It appears schools can be a player in the regional food system. For that change to happen, it will take a village. And, maybe one very large grill.
So as you enjoy your Thanksgiving take time to thank the farmer/grower and all the others who helped bring the food to your table. And give a shout-out for those such as Teresa who help make it happen.