Montana Local Beef is fun for kids…who knew?

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Yesterday my group went to Irving Elementary to present our Harvest of the Month activity. Our “crop” was beef. I was a mix of hesitant and intrigued at just exactly how we were going to present on such an odd harvest. How do you make beef fun or interesting? Luckily I paired myself with some excellent NUTR 351 students, two of whom grew up on ranches in Montana.

We all know that group projects can either go really well or they fall on the shoulders of one person, which totally sucks. But everyone in my group did equal work and participated 100%. That resulted in a presentation that went really well. So well in fact, that one kid asked if we would ever be coming back, which felt awesome!

We decided to break our presentation up into four stations, each run by one of the group members. We had to adapt our presentation idea to make sure we covered local beef information in a way that was accessible to 4th graders. I originally had an idea to write a song about beef that could be a sort of sing-a-long, but I was reminded that these kids were probably going to be a bit too old for sing-a-longs. Others in the group planned activities that were a little too advanced. These were good examples of how to evaluate before implementing the lesson plan, or a formative evaluation.

Our four activities included nutrition, safety/quality assurance, montana cattle breeds, and sourcing local beef.

I focused on sourcing local beef. My presentation had a map of Montana on a large thick poster board. I also had a smaller map of the United States underneath the Montana poster. I started out by asking the kids to guess how far a lot of food items have to travel before they get to the grocery store. The facts I have use 1500 miles as an average. I thought it would be good to show the kids how long 1500 miles is, so on the US map I drew lines from Bozeman to two cities that were roughly 1500 miles away. Then I segued into how Montana produces so much beef that it seems silly to get our meat from so far away. I shared that there are more than twice as many cows as people in Montana. That was a fact that about half of the kids did not know. I talked about how many farms and ranches are located in Montana and that this is the #6 beef producing state in the US. I shared the facts by having kids guess answers so as to keep them engaged instead of just talking at them.

After sharing the facts we moved onto an activity. I picked 6 different ranches located in Western Montana. I found them all through the Western Sustainability Exchange, which is a great organization that supports ranchers that use sustainable practices. I wrote a whole blog post about WSE that you can check out and here is their website: –

I had different colored tacks associated with the different ranches. Then on my map I had the different towns circled, but instead of putting the names of the towns I put question marks. Then I told the kids what town each ranch was in and had them guess where the town was on the map.


A shot of the unfinished poster.

I was a little nervous about my activity. I wanted it to be fun and engaging and I had some issues putting the whole activity together, with printing and sizing everything right. But it engaged all the kids each time I gave the presentation. They shared facts about their lives, where they lived, and where they had visited while I did the presentation. I was really happy that they enjoyed the activity.


Some of my issues included distraction

After the students rotated through the four different activities we brought them all together for an evaluation. Each of my group members came up with two quiz questions to ask the kids to see if they remembered what they learned. The only question they missed was from the nutrition lesson, which can be a tough concept to teach to young kids. Then we did an activity similar to the one we did today. For our last two questions we asked kids to go to a part of the room with the answer they agreed the most with. The first question asked them to choose one of three options:

1) I didn’t learn anything new about beef today.

2) I knew some things about beef, but I did learn a few new facts.

3) Everything I learned today was new!

The Second question had kids decide between:

1) I had fun today

2) I was bored

This was pretty funny. Almost all the kids ran to the “fun” side of the room. This one younger kid was leaning towards the bored side, but then he seemed to think twice, and then go over to the “fun” side. So we got almost everybody to have fun…

In closing, I am really glad that we got to have this experience. I appreciate the hands on learning outside of the classroom. I also felt a serious responsibility to these kids and so I thought a lot about this presentation and really tried to make it fun and educational. I can see why so much planning needs to go into lessons like these. I also see the value in being flexible and able to adapt quickly. These are two qualities that a community nutritionist should have in order to effectively change behaviors and attitudes in target populations.


GMO – Yes or No

The GMO debate is an issue I have shied away from in the past. I have heard arguments for and against this phenomenon. I have heard arguments from MSU professors in support of GMOs. I have heard some arguments against GMOs from people who get their information from Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola ( In my opinion and the opinion of others these are not great sources of information. When I google Mercola, this is the third link that comes up on my page:

The author of this article titled “FDA Orders Dr. Joseph Mercola to Stop Illegal Claims.” does not have great things to say about Mercola as a source of reliable information.

And that is where my main issues lies – reliable information.

In my preparation for the debate I felt torn and unsure of who to trust. The claims made by the biotech companies are so assuring and they are backed by what we would think are trust worthy sources such as the World Health Organization, the EPA, and the FDA. But a large number of people reject those reassuring statements and charge the companies and the organizations behind them with corruption, greed, and dishonesty.

I downloaded a long document written by authors against GMOs. It is called “GMO Myths and Truths” and it is available for free from Earth Open Source: It is a lengthy document with over 600 sources “200 of which are peer reviewed.”

I want to read through this document on my own time and see what arguments are made and how they are supported. I shy away from the debate because until I have enough information I don’t want to live in fear. However, what if the claims against GMO use are true? What if these items actually do cause physical and mental health issues?

At this point in the debate I still don’t have a solid opinion backed by reliable information. So in answer to my blog title today…I say, “GMO…I still don’t know…”

Eating on $3 per day. Surviving Versus Thriving

The $3 per day challenge required NUTR 351 students to attempt to eat for three days on $9. We could not accept free food or use food we already had at home (save for basics like salt and pepper). We also analyzed the nutritional content of our meals using

My goal was to eat as nutritionally sound as I could. To do this I made the following decisions prior to purchasing or making my food.

1.) Use the internet to develop meal plan.

2.) Buy all my food in advance at an inexpensive grocery store

3.) Make meals in advance to help with time constraints

So how did I do…?

1.) Using the Internet – After searching around on Google for budget friendly meal plans I settled on this website: This person recommended the following items:

  • dried beans
  • brown rice
  • broccoli and sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • sunflower seeds
  • milk

So I took note and then moved on to choosing my grocery store.

2.) The grocery store – I posed the question to my social media outlet – Facebook. “I am participating in a project where I have to eat on $3/day for 3 days. What’s your recommendation for the cheapest grocery store in Bozeman?” I was guessing Town and Country based on my own experiences shopping in Bozeman for the last seven years. My comrades agreed. A side note – my post received 20 comments, which is a lot for me. I received suggestions on where to shop, what to make, and what ingredients to buy. I was intrigued that so many people were interested in this project! 

So I went to Town and Country on 11th. It took me about 45 minutes to go through my items. I used my phone calculator to add the prices of the items as I shopped. I had to put items back and trade them for others, the whole time trying to keep my nutritional integrity. After the shopping ended I wound up with the following items:


  • Dried lentils
  • Brown rice
  • broccoli (2 heads)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • oil spread
  • 1 apple
  • eggs

3.) Making the meals – This is the part of the project that was difficult. With graduate work beginning to pile up and my plethora of extracurricular activities mounting – I was short on time; much like many individuals and families surviving on so little. But I did my best to plan out my meals and stick to them. This is the rough meal plan I made:

  • Day 1
  • Two hard boiled eggs and water for breakfast
  • Cook brown rice and sweet potato for lunch with “butter”
  • broccoli for snack and egg
  • Have brown rice, sweet potato, broccoli and lentils for dinner
  • Day 2
  • Two hard boiled eggs
  • brown rice and sweet potato for lunch
  • snack on broccoli
  • cook sweet potato and lentils…combine with butter and water to make soup
  • Day 3
  • Two hard boiled eggs
  • brown rice, sweet potato for lunch
  • apple for snack
  • lentils rice and rest of veggies for dinner and eggs for stir fry
Sweet potato portions for three days

Sweet potato portions for three days


Typical lunch/dinner combination


Sweet potato pieces seasoned and ready to be oven-roasted.

So all in all, I managed to follow my menu plan for the most part. I thought about food constantly and coffee even more so. I was missing major calcium points on my nutrition analysis, among other vitamins and minerals. Overall, the three days were challenging. I used a lot of salt and pepper to deal with the bland flavor of my rice and lentils. I was very grateful for the eggs that I added to almost every meal in order to tide me over.

I can only imagine the overwhelming task of attempting to live on this amount of food with a family to feed. With all the other stress that comes with surviving on a budget it’s easy to see how convenience trumps nutrition. I left this experience with one particular thought. There is surviving and then there is thriving. Every person on this earth should have the right to thrive, but most are barley surviving. To thrive is to eat well, rest well, and live well. “Well” is subjective, of course, but on the basic level that is access to affordable and nutritious food, along with the knowledge to the prepare the food in a way that is culturally conscience – that is a “well” every person deserves.

The National Farm to School Network

To start this blog off I’d like to share a video from the National Farm to School Network…

I found this video by going to the Gallatin Valley Farm to school twitter page, which lead me to the nation Farm to School page.

The Tagline for the Farm to School page is as follows: “Nourishing kids and communities by restoring the connection between children, food, community, land, and place.”

For me, the Farm to School topic relates to effective intervention program planning, a topic we’ve discussed in class and read about in our text the last two weeks. The Farm to School program is taking on a large target population (i.e. school children) and implementing change through experiential education, policy change and training programs for educators.

The Farm to School program could be described as one large intervention program designed to improve on a system that involves many smaller communities. The program began in 2007 by combining multiple organizations aimed at developing stronger relationships between farmers, school children and their shared community. I can only imagine the amount of planning that went into the development of the current system. The network today includes over 40,000 schools in all 51 states with regional leaders. –

This large organization also seems to have grown based off a good evaluation plan – another aspect of the intervention planning procedure described in our text. I can only assume that as membership has grown, changes have been necessary to assure that the goals and objectives of the National Farm to School program trickle down to all the smaller communities relying on the larger infrastructure. An example of their continuous evaluation (this could fall under process, impact, outcome, and structure evaluation – ch 4) is the biennial National Farm to Cafeteria conference. The event brings stakeholders from different areas of the system together to share experiences, strengthen relationships and train educators.

The National Farm to School program may be a good resource as the different teams develop their lesson plans for the upcoming semester.

The Gallatin Valley Farm to School program also has a website with pertinent information for our local school and food system: –

Western Sustainability Exchange – bringing Montana’s produce to its consumers

This week I attended a talk at Wild Joes given by Lill Erickson, the executive director at Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE), an organization that promotes Montana ranches and farmers by promoting sustainable practices, connecting the producers with restaurants and local consumers, and preserving the land in Montana. Here is a quote from their website describing their purpose:

“Western Sustainability Exchange was founded in 1994 on the principles of preserving the abundance of the Northern Rockies including its open spaces, wildlife habitats, water resources, rural communities, and agricultural land and heritage. Today, WSE boasts numerous successes in bringing together concerned parties who are committed to the future of Montana. The organization has aided farmers and ranchers in designing and implementing innovative and sustainable production strategies, developed value-added markets for these producers, and educated thousands of consumers about the long-term benefits of sustainable purchasing.”

This video is a little lengthy for the average consumer, but if you have 10 minutes, it’s worth a watch and does a great job describing the why, the who, and the how of this organization.

WSE uses different methods of promotion including an incentive program that rates producers based on their practices. WSE supports producers that live by the following practices:

– No GMO’s – Genetically Modified Organisms (this is a hot topic debate and one attendant at the talk brought up the fact that scientific journals show there is no evidence of GMO’s having negative affects on health. I see issues with both sides of the argument. That could be a whole other blog discussion in itself)

-Humane treatment of animals

-Protect human health

-Protect the environment

So far in our class we have talked about nutritionists/dieticians, their role in society and how they assess a community to improve the health of its people. Although the Western Sustainability Exchange is not a coalition of nutritionists, I think it is a great example of combining good nutrition, entrepreneurship and stewardship for the Western Montanan community. I think the founders of the WSE saw a need within the community for better access to sustainably and locally produced food.

Those of us who live in this area are lucky to have the access and resources to eat the way we do. That being said, not everyone in this community has equal access to that kind of food. I think that by promoting locally and sustainably produced food and making it available to a greater number of consumers moves us closer to total community access.

I wonder how Montana’s farming and ranching community would be affected if all populations in Montana demanded Montana Made products. I wonder how a more populated state would react to a large increase in demand for local products. I think these issues are important for overall community health because I believe that ALL communities should have access to high quality food but understanding the full cost of this futuristic world is important in being able to implement that level of sustainable food practice.