Farm-to-school programs around the country have wrestled with the challenge of sourcing local meat. To explore this question, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and Iowa Food Hub, sought to build a meat-to-school program in northeast Iowa. A new series of three publications provides highlights of the project’s successes and challenges, on the topics of sourcing products, working with pork producers and working with beef producers.
The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and its partners first approached schools about the idea of sourcing meat in 2014, hoping to explore the cost-effectiveness of purchasing local animals and processing them at local lockers. It quickly became clear that schools could not purchase local meat if the price was higher than those offered by conventional distributors. If prices were comparable, however, these school systems preferred to purchase meat locally. Not only did local meat allow these schools to reach their farm-to-school procurement goals, but food service personnel liked that each piece of meat could be traced back to the farm that produced it.
Thus, a meat-to school program was born. Pilot projects in procuring pork, turkey and beef were launched in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. In the 2014-2015 year, eight schools purchased local beef, pork or poultry from Iowa Food Hub. Local meat purchases by schools totalled $19,875.
The purchases also resulted in wins for kids, farmers, local meat lockers and communities, as the rest of the series will explore.
Learn more about the strategies our case study partners used to meet the challenges they faced by downloading a free copy of this three-part series (13 pp. total) from the ISU Extension Store at this link.