Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Banner County Schools using local beef, pork for meals when possible


Consuming locally produced food is a growing trend and this movement has become so popular that it has inspired a new word – locavore, meaning someone who prefers to eat food grown locally or food that has not traveled far to market.

In rural Nebraska, the movement has gone from sharing garden produce with neighbors to providing school districts with locally raised beef and pork.

Lana Sides, superintendent of Banner County Schools, said that local producers are donating beef and pork to the school, which the district then pays to have processed at a local USDA inspected plant.

“We use KDK Meats of Bayard,” Sides said. “They are the only USDA inspected processor that we know of that is local.”

To date, Sides said, three cows and two hogs have been donated. Of those, two cows have been processed into hamburger, stew meat and roasts. Processing has not been completed on the rest.

Some schools thank the producers with a banner, but so far Banner County producers wish to not be named.

“The days we serve locally raised beef we put up a little poster,” Sides added. “I had to laugh when one little boy said he was glad we were serving real beef.”

Other districts that are accepting locally raised meat are Bayard, Bridgeport, Hemingford and Sidney, though Sides added that Hemingford and Sidney are just getting started. Bayard was the first Panhandle school system to accept local donations.

“Bayard started it last year and we work closely with that district,” Sides said. “We wanted five (donations) this year and we have already gotten that.”

A USDA inspector is on hand when the meat arrives and tests organ meat immediately prior to processing. The process also includes touring the processing facility, deciding on packaging, and signing a contract there.

“They (KDK Meats) have been fantastic to work with,” she added. “We are getting some picnic hams, ground pork and sausage.”

Some schools are also doing locally grown produce, but Sides does not currently have the rules on any program for accepting fresh produce.

Locally grown produce is generally picked at the peak of ripeness. Since it does not have to be shipped far, this means that it is more flavorful and nutritious. As an added benefit, local producers are able and more likely to answer questions regarding their farming and ranching practices.

Additionally, supporting local producers, whether farmers, ranchers or bee keepers, means money is spent close to home, and is then reinvested in local businesses and services.

Consuming locally produced foods can be a healthier lifestyle as fewer steps between the food source and the consumer means fewer chances for contamination during shipping and distribution as well.

“It is pretty incredible. We feel we are an agricultural county and this is so neat,” Sides said. “It is part of what our county is; I’m pretty proud of our patrons.”


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