Friday, October 16, 2015

S'Wheat' Day!

Canned spinach was not on the menu. That's what Cottonwood Elementary School Principal Kyle Griffitts remembers from his childhood school lunches.
From a Cottonwood School mural
But during the Kansas Wheat Day celebration at Cottonwood last week, a school-made whole wheat bun was part of the "lesson plan" that connected Kansas farmers to the Kansas School Lunch program and students. (And, for the record, it was fresh broccoli with ranch dressing, for the vegetable - not canned spinach.)

Randy and I joined Julia Debes, a Hoisington farmer and Kansas Wheat staffer, as the farmers who shared our passion for wheat with second graders at Cottonwood Elementary. Kansas Wheat Day was one part of a week-long celebration, October 12-16, of the healthy and nutritious foods grown on Kansas farms that end up as part of school lunches. In addition to Kansas Wheat, the Kansas State Department of Education partnered with the Midwest Dairy Council and Kansas Pork Association to organize other school activities.

October is also Farm to School Month. Randy, Julia and I brought glimpses of our Kansas farms to the classroom, then joined the elementary school students for lunch.
Julia brought her own form of "show and tell" to lunch, with her bundle of wheat and her daughter's toy combine. I put together a slide show of photos from planting to harvest to help describe the 9-month journey that helps bring wheat products to school lunch rooms and their family's homes.
Salina Journal Photo, Michael Strand
We all shared the book, "Celebrate Wheat" by Dan Yunk.
Courtesy of Kansas Farm Bureau, each of the second grade students and two classrooms of students  at Heartland Preschool got to take a copy of the book home with them.
We are always happy to talk about wheat, but this particular event was even more special because we got to work with our daughter, Jill, assistant director of child nutrition and wellness with the Kansas Department of Education, and some of her co-workers, as well as two representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jill happened to know where to find a couple of farmers willing to help her out.
Last year, Kansas schools provided more than 73 million meals and snacks to children through the federal Child Nutrition Programs. Wheat ends up as a component of many of those meals - in everything from rolls to pizza crust to tortillas. School lunches have been part of the school day for more than 60 years.
Randy would gladly take every one of the kids on a combine ride. But they had to settle for sticking their hands in a bucket of wheat kernels and asking questions ... lots of questions!

What do farmers wear?
How long does it take for wheat to grow?
Many much wheat fits in a semi?
Can I take some of this wheat home to plant?
What does harvest mean?
How does a combine work?
Wow! It takes THAT LONG to harvest the wheat? (Randy asked the kids how long they thought it took us to harvest wheat. The guesses ranged from 2 to 10 hours. They thought 10 days to 2 weeks was a long time! Me too, kids, me too!)
I, for one, was glad to have someone else cook lunch for a change!

For more on the Kansas Wheat Day at Cottonwood, check out the article in The Salina Journal and the article at Kansas Wheat.


  1. Kim,
    What a great out reach opportunity! Yea for you and Randy taking time to go to the elementary school and a bring farm life to the classroom.

    1. We enjoyed it, especially since we got to help out our favorite dietitian!