The Garden City Telegram
1/29/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

State fare

School lunches help cultivate understanding of ag endeavors.

Even though it's the leading industry in Kansas, agriculture too often is taken for granted.

With that in mind, it's always encouraging when programs foster better understanding of everyday farm endeavors in the Sunflower State.

One such educational opportunity arrived this week, with schoolchildren treated to a cornucopia of good food produced in Kansas.

It's Kansas School Lunch Week, with schools celebrating a daily agricultural commodity from Kansas as a featured item on school menus.

The partnership between the Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas State Department of Education delivered the following: Kansas Beef Day on Monday, Kansas Corn Day on Tuesday, Kansas Wheat Day on Wednesday, Kansas Pork Day today and Kansas Dairy Day on Friday.

Fun facts on each commodity were provided. For example, on Kansas Wheat Day, students learned Kansas harvests the most wheat of any state, with more than 20,000 Kansas wheat farmers growing enough wheat to fill train cars stretching from western Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean.

But even in an agriculture-driven state like Kansas, it's safe to say many children have no idea where food comes from, unless they have spent time on a farm. And even those youngsters may not be aware of all of the good fare produced in Kansas.

Putting examples of the food grown in Kansas on the menu — and explaining the connection to their home state — is a smart first step toward helping students understand the process of moving food from the farm to the plate.

Learning more about each food item also should boost students' understanding of the role of nutrition in overall health.

Another benefit of the school lunch program is in helping youngsters know more about what's going on in a state where farm operations produce abundant, affordable food that helps feed the world. They should know how ag fuels job opportunities and other economic benefits on farms and beyond.

As students enjoy the variety of food the state has to offer, let's hope they're also gaining the kind of knowledge that leads them to appreciate and support farm efforts today and in the future.