A team of Montana State University researchers and community partners has been awarded a three-year, $220,000 grant from the USDA to study ways to get more local beef into schools and communities in the state, the school has announced. The study is also intended to discern which “beef to school” methods are most sustainable for producers, processors and schools.
The team is led by Carmen Byker Shanks, assistant professor in the MSU Department of Health and Human Development.
“Beef to school efforts can increase the sustainability and viability of local and regional food systems,” Shanks noted in a prepared statement. “The recently published 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans highlights that beef production has a potentially large impact on the environment. In Montana and beyond, it is important to support beef production through efforts such as beef to school programs. Beef to school programs have the potential to reduce the need for transportation, packaging, and other inputs; increase access to local food; provide farmers an additional market for their beef; enhance community food literacy and connections to local agriculture; keep money circulating in local economies; and possibly utilize cattle that are grass-fed.”
The Montana Beef to School Coalition has already identified four potential areas of study: identifying current successful models of beef to school efforts, analyzing the capacity and motivations of beef producers and meat processors to fill the demand for local beef, an availability of resources about how to make beef to school efforts economically and nutritionally viable for schools, and implementing strategies to include beef to school programming at schools.
The researchers will conduct comprehensive case studies of current beef to school efforts to identify the benefits, challenges, best practices and gaps that exist for beef to school procurement models, according to Shanks. It will also examine how local beef is utilized in schools and evaluate student acceptance and preference of local versus non-local beef.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]