Ranchers partner with schools to provide beef
—OCA offers tax incentive for Ranchers Feeding Kids program.
With money for education declining and childhood obesity increasing, Oregonians are looking for innovative ways to fund school programs and raise healthy K-12 students. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) is supporting a program that does both—saves money for school districts and feeds kids.
“This is an exceptional program that helps to educate school administrators, students and parents about the importance of getting enough protein and the benefits of eating beef for good health.”
The Ranchers Feeding Kids (RFK) program matches Oregon cattle ranchers with local schools to provide free beef to school meal programs. It originated in eastern Oregon’s Jordan Valley School District in 2009 and is similar to the “Beef to Schools” program in Baker County that started in 2008. OCA would like to see more school districts take advantage of the generosity of cattle ranchers and has created a tax deductible opportunity as a charitable donation through the association’s Stewardship Fund.
“We encourage cattle ranchers statewide to follow the example of the Malheur County Cattlemen’s Association and the Malheur County Extension Service who have sponsored this unique program,” said Kay Teisl, OCA executive director. “We’d like to see this partnership between ranchers and schools expand to every county in Oregon. The intent is to make this an annual activity and to possibly provide enough beef that the district’s yearly beef demand is met entirely with donated animals.”
In addition to the meals program, RFK includes an educational component, according to Anna-Marie Chamberlain, the livestock and rangeland specialist in Malheur County. “We have multiple partners involved who bring educational sessions to the students, including the central message that beef production is a key component of our local economy. It teaches that beef production is a sustainable practice that benefits multiple facets of our community, the career opportunities available within the beef industry, and that consumption of beef is part of a balanced diet.”
“I commend the Ranchers Feeding Kids beef donation program, which is 100 percent supported by the ranchers in Baker and Malheur counties who saw a need within their local schools, and they made a decision to provide a solution at no cost to the schools or the districts,” said Bill Hoyt, president of OCA.
Both programs acquire and utilize donated beef in the schools’ meal programs and then work directly with local producers to coordinate the processing of the donated animals at a local USDA inspected facility, paid for by the ranchers. Once processed, the beef, in the form of ground hamburger and roasts, is available for the school food staff to utilize in a variety of nutritional meals for students.
“This is an exceptional program that helps to educate school administrators, students and parents about the importance of getting enough protein and the benefits of eating beef for good health,” said Will Wise, executive director of the Oregon Beef Council. “We hope to see this program expand to other cities and counties across Oregon where ranchers have an opportunity to support the students while educating them about the importance of agriculture within our communities.” — WLJ