Whenever the 600 students in Grant School District 3 have beef for lunch they hear a morning announcement that the meat was provided by local ranchers.
The beef is donated as part of the Ranchers Feeding Kids, a program begun about six years ago with the help of Oregon State University educator Gary Delaney.
Under the program, a rancher contacts District Superintendent Curt Shelley to donate a healthy animal. Shelley, himself a third-generation rancher, then arranges for the brand inspection and even picks up and transports the animals to be processed at a USDA-inspected plant in Prineville or Nampa, Idaho.
“It increases the students’ knowledge of where their food comes from, and promotes the local stockgrowers and buying local,” said Shelley. “Our kindergartners know where their food comes from. ... I think there’s a huge educational value.”
The cut-and-wrap is paid for either by the local stockgrowers association or a grant from the Farmers Ending Hunger nonprofit organization.
The rancher gets a tax deduction, the students get lunch and a lesson about where their food comes from and the school district saves money.
It’s a “win-win for everybody,” Shelley said. In the past three years alone, he estimated the ranchers’ donations have saved the district more than $30,000.
“We have not bought hamburger the last three years,” he said. He estimated the district has received 12,000 to 15,000 pounds of hamburger in that time.
Ranchers have donated about 20 animals in the past three years, Shelley said. The ranchers are Mat and Jennifer Carter, Justin and Jenny Jacobs, Ben and Chandra Holliday, Willis and Melanie Kimball, Gail and Shirley Enright and Ed Heiple.
“The last three years it’s been a great thing for our district,” Shelley said.
Students at Humbolt, Seneca and Grant Union Junior-Senior High School all benefit from the beef donations, he said.
“The kids, staff, administration and school board all appreciate the local stockgrowers,” Shelley said. “I would argue it’s one of the great things about living in Grant County.”
Ranchers who want to donate cattle to the district can contact Shelley at 541-575-1280.