“Beef to me and my family means quite a bit because our farm has kinda stayed in the family, especially my grandpa’s farm. It’s nice to know that the beef comes locally and that we support local farmers, especially times like now when the beef market is kind of low,” said Ashley Schmaltz.

Despite a recent beef shortage, the I-BAND movement, or Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, didn’t let that stop their desire to have local beef in schools statewide.

The movement raised $3,000 to get the project started. It then worked with South 40 Beef from Mott, which sold the beef to them at a modest cost.

President of the I-BAND movement and local rancher Kerry Dockter says the pilot project launched 1,000 pounds of beef to put in 12 schools because they feel our children deserve quality beef.

“We support a superior quality of beef in the state here, if anything else these kids in these schools are the next generation of beef eaters, and we wanna make sure that they have a good experience eating beef and keep them away from trying the alternative protein, lab-grown products, which doesn’t do anything good for our local community,” said Dockter.

One of the schools that received a donation was Steele Dawson Public School.

Superintendent Rick Diegel says the school is very happy to have the beef and receive such a generous donation.

“It helps our taxpayers when we get donations, it helps our food supply, especially in today’s world where sometimes receiving food supply means you never know what’s going to come because of the shortages,” Diegel said.

Having fresh food come from a place so close not only cuts down the cost of the meat, it’s generally healthier.

Sue Caron, the head cook at Steele Dawson, says she was happy when she heard about local beef donating to the school.

“I was thrilled just by the thought of someone willing to donate beef but the idea of it being local beef. It’s nice to be able to support your local farmer. I mean it’s been a rough year. They’ve been struggling with drought and conditions that’ve been bad. It’s just nice to support the local people,” Caron said.

Assistant Director of Child Nutrition in the Public Instruction Department Deb Egeland was a big help to the distributions going through the state.

She helped connect the ranchers to the schools to also support local beef because she says it honestly just tastes better.

“Students win, communities win, farmers win because it’s the circle that everyone in the community wins,” Egeland added.

The Department of Public Instruction hopes that additional ranchers join the movement to get more locally sourced food in public schools around the state.