Last week, seven Obion County Schools participated in a district-wide local food taste test through the District’s USDA funded Farm to School Planning Project. Local beef was provided by Giffin Farms and processed by Yoder’s Meat Processor. Chastity Homra, Obion County Schools Coordinated School Health Director, helped facilitate the taste tests with Michelle Bruner’s Culinary Arts Class and Stewart Watson’s FFA students. Obion County Farm to School Team Members, Judy Denman, School Nutrition Director, and Linda Carney, School Finance Director, provided materials and logistical support.
“A total of 30 students served 2,045 Obion County School District students at seven schools,” said Chastity Homra. “Culinary Arts students prepared the food, and FFA students served the taste tests in schools. Through Coordinated School Health, I like to encourage students to have a voice because they feel more empowered and want to engage more with new experiences. 93% of students liked Giffin Farms local beef samples.”
Taste tests provide numerous benefits to students by giving them the opportunity to try a variety of foods, introducing them to foods that are locally grown and in season, facilitate a change in food choices (thus allowing new and local foods that are accepted by students to be integrated into school meals), creates positive food environments, and is a fun and memorable experience.
Students are often reluctant to try new foods. Taste tests introduce new menu items in a way that raises awareness about healthy food choices, involves the school community, local farmers and builds a culture of trying new foods.
The day after the Obion County Central High School taste test, the Culinary Students had a tray of prepared leftover beef. The school cafeteria manager used it in the school’s lunch serving of chile. “One of the high school students, who had not liked the local beef taste test the day prior, had commented the following day about how the school’s chile was really tasty,” commented Ms. Homra, “but what he hadn’t realized is the same local beef he tried the day before was also used in the school cafeteria’s chile the following day.”
Derek Giffin, and wife, Micayla with new baby son, are the owners of Giffin Farms out of Obion County. Derek is a 2011 South Fulton High School Graduate, and 5th generation farmer who manages his family’s commodity crop farm and cattle raising operation through the use of cover crops and regenerative agricultural practices. Meet Derek Giffin – watch a 6-minute video here:
“No school in Northwest Tennessee has ever sourced an entire beef cattle before from a local farmer, so the Obion County Farm to School Planning team wanted to see how much one entire beef cattle could feed a school district, and were we surprised – it’s the beef that keeps on feeding students!” stated Samantha Goyret, Northwest Tennessee Farm to School Coordinator, Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network.
With the additional frozen beef, Chastity plans on hosting a Culinary Arts recipe contest with the Obion County Central High School Students who will win a gift certificate and get their Giffin Farms Local Beef Recipe published in the upcoming 2022 Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide Magazine. Additional beef is being reserved to make Giffin Farms Beef Burgers to celebrate Obion County FFA students’ recent achievements. Extra chubs of beef will also be divided to the school cafeterias for use in chile lunches this fall.
The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is partnering with the Obion County Farm to School District and Farm to School Team. By working with area farmers, parents, students, school administration, and the Local Food Network, the Obion County Farm to School Team is 1) Building support by formally convening a team of Farm to School advocates for each school district; 2) Identifying and assessing school district stakeholders by completing online assessments to identify strengths, needs, and areas for improvement; and 3) Developing an Obion County Farm to School Action Plan.
The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. Learn more about how you can get involved at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school.
These projects have been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or Organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
~Co-Written by Samantha Goyret and Lauren Kimball
Published in the Union City Daily Messenger
Tuesday, November 16, 2021