ST. JOHN-HUDSON — There’s no “beef” about the quality of meat being served these days to St. John-Hudson USD 350 students because the beef on their lunch plates is homegrown, thanks to donations from local ranchers, plus the flour used in their meals is donated by Stafford County Flower Mills at Hudson.
Stafford County farmer/ranchers Tyler and Leah Alpers spearheaded the effort to get the national Farm-to-School program, now in its third year, established through the nonprofit St. John-Hudson USD 350 Community Educational Foundation, and they are continuing in their leadership role.
“I got the idea for it from an article in the Farm Bureau magazine,” Tyler Alpers said. “It’s become a success because of the local participation.”
It takes five to six cows a year to cover lunches for district’s 250 students, said Alpers, who added that monetary donations are used to cover costs for the processing, which is done at Ellinwood Packing.
“It’s a better quality of beef that what the district was buying before, better for the students, as well as saving money for the district,” Alpers said.
“When I started making calls to ask for donations, I had a good response,” he said. “That’s what makes it work is people willing to step up.”
Nationwide, the Farm-to-School program is celebrating its eighth annual National Farm to School Month, dedicated to recognizing the importance of improving child nutrition, supporting local economies and educating communities about the origins of their food, according to Justin Carter, project associate, Center for Rural Affairs.
For USD 350’s cafeteria staff, having fresh beef on the menu requires a lot of extra work over just heating up precooked beef from the district’s food service vendors, Alpers said.
“Food Service Director Sondra Davis and her staff were were more than willing to take on the extra work,” he said.
District Superintendent Josh Myers said the Farm-to-School donation program has made a positive impact on the food service program and the school's budget bottom line.
"I appreciate Leah and Tyler Alpers heading up this effort, as well as all of the donors that make this possible,” Meyers said.
Stafford County Flour Mills assistant manager Derek Foote said his company donates Hudson Cream All Purpose Flour and also a blend of 60 percent whole wheat and 40 percent all-purpose flour, which meets the district’s nutritional requirements.
“It’s important for us to be involved in the community,” Foote said.