Southwest Colorado schools warm to local beef |

Southwest Colorado schools warm to local beef


DURANGO, Colo. (AP) – Durango School District 9-R is expanding its purchases of locally raised ground beef, lending a boost to area ranches and the local-foods movement.District 9-R will purchase about 1,500 pounds of James Ranch beef this fall, and nearly 4,000 pounds of Fox Fire Farms beef later in the 2009-10 school year.”We feel if you feed the kids well, they’ll probably do better in school,” said Brent Walter, Fox Fire’s marketing director. “There are a lot of people getting sick off of food these days because it’s poorly raised and produced. We want to see an end to that.”The school district will spend about $11,550 on locally raised beef this year. The effort began in spring 2008, when 9-R purchased 600 pounds of beef from Fox Fire.”It was hugely successful, and then we were able to continue that relationship,” said Krista Garand, 9-R director of student nutrition.The ground beef is used to make tacos, barbecued-beef sandwiches, chili, nachos and other dishes. District 9-R also serves locally grown fruits and vegetables.”Sometimes kids are eating better at schools than they are at home,” Garand said. “We’re serving organic meals to kids.”The locally ranched beef is raised on grass, rather than grain. That’s better nutritionally, said Mikel Love, a registered dietitian at Peak Wellness & Nutrition in Durango.”They’re often lower in saturated fat if they’re not grain-finished,” Love said.District 9-R continues to serve some processed meat as part of the National School Lunch Program, a federally subsidized program created in 1946. But local school districts increasingly choose local beef.Ignacio School District will buy 4,000 pounds of locally raised beef from Bonds Brand in Bondad and Fox Fire this school year, said Kim Cotta, director of food service.”It adds quality to our meals, and it also keeps support of our local farmers,” Cotta said. A federal grant program has made it easier for Ignacio schools to purchase higher-priced local products, she said.Local-foods advocates also have met with school officials from Bayfield, Cortez, Pagosa Springs, Mancos and Dolores, who have expressed interest in starting their own programs, said Jim Dyer, coordinator of the local Farm to School chapter.Fox Fire, located southeast of Ignacio, sells its ground beef to local districts at a loss.”What we do is we mark up our steaks and other cuts,” Walter said. Sales of steaks subsidize reduced rates for schools, he said.Proponents touted the benefits of circulating money in the local economy. And local beef is higher quality than the beef served through the National School Lunch Program, Dyer said.”You have no idea how many animals that hamburger has come from,” he said.Eating local products encourages good eating habits among students, Dyer said.”They have a better idea of where it came from, so they understand their food,” he said. “The more children understand and think about their food, the more likely it is that they’ll make good choices.”

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