Look no further than the school cafeteria for choice cuts of locally raised meat. The School Nutrition Project, entering its second year, splits the processing costs with districts who receive donated animals from local farmers and 4-H clubs.
After completing a pilot year, the Wyoming Legislature extended the program for two more years and amended the funding process. Instead of applying for a reimbursement, schools can now apply ahead of time based on estimated processing costs.
Shelley Hamel, the School Support Division Director for the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) said, applying earlier will allow schools to know ahead of time if they have the funds needed before taking on unprocessed beef or pork.
“I think that will open the door for a few more districts to participate,” said Hamel. “Instead of it being a little bit of a gamble, like ‘oh I’m not sure if we’ll get the money.’”
The legislature appropriated $50,000 to cover the program for the next two years, but did not allocate money in the state budget. That means the WDE has to come up with the money for the next two years.
Hamel said the department is fully in support of increasing access to local food.
“Because we do feel like that’s better for our students. And so we can absolutely get behind that. We just know that as the dollar is stretched and things are cut it becomes more and more difficult to fund that,” said Hamel. “So we would hope that across the state people recognize the value and put an allocation with it in the future.”
The WDE is taking public input on the program through June 29.