This Montana Beef to School Blog post is all about finding the right tools to beef up your program! It’s been a few months since you’ve seen a blog from us, and that’s because we’ve been spending a lot of time answering the call of beef to school (B2S) stakeholders for more resources. In addition, the Beef to School Research Team has welcomed a new member to our team…

Finnegan Wilde Shanks was born on November 29, 2017. Born of our B2S Project lead, Carmen Byker-Shanks, Finn is sure to be one strong ox once he’s weaned.

Just over a year ago, we met with the Beef to School Coalition and got to hear first-hand about the needs of B2S supporters from across the state. We laid out a plan for producing these materials and have been hard at work to bring them to you. First up, we’ll talk about the…

Beef to School Procurement Decision Tree

This decision tree provides methodical guidance for school food service staff are interested in B2S. This tool can also be helpful for processors and/or producers that are seeking to create sales partnerships with schools, as it gives an in depth look at the school food service procurement practice.

One piece of information is needed to begin the decision tree: how much will you be spending on a beef purchase? This is critical information because USDA has tighter regulations on purchases over $3,500. If your purchase is under $3500, it qualifies as a “micro-purchase” meaning that you don’t have to go through a formal bidding process. However, if you’re buying $3500 or more of beef in one single transaction, we’ve come up with resources just for you…

Beef to School Informal Procurement (RFQ) Template and Formal Procurement (RFP) Template

These procurement templates are exactly what school food service needs to ease into the process of local beef procurement for purchases over $3500.

Soon after these resources were released the USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems partnered with the Montana Beef to School Project, Montana State University, Montana Team Nutrition, and school food service directors to offer a Beef to School Webinar (or “Beefinar” as we like to call it) The Beefinar was a great opportunity to share successful strategies for serving local beef in schools. We explored the Montana Beef to School Project’s findings and resources – including the aforementioned new beef to school solicitation templates designed to help school districts purchase local beef. Participants also heard from two school food service directors (including Jay Stagg, Whitefish Public Schools) who shared their strategies and lessons learned for purchasing and serving local beef in schools. If you missed the Beefinar in February 2018, don’t worry you can watch the recording here!

Getting Started with Beef to School MontGuide

Next up the research team set about working on a MontGuide and Special Extension Bulletin through the MSU Extension Office. Thanks to the wonderful team members that we have working with Extension, Beef to School strategies will now be a timeless resource provided through MSU Extension across the state. The MontGuide includes the take-home points from two years of research, highlighting the models, barriers, and recommendations. Read the whole MontGuide here.

Beef to School FAQ

Our research team is working with a finite timeline, and we’re trying to grind out all the resources that we can to help further B2S in Montana, before our grant concludes. After receiving and responding to many of the same questions, some of our team members thought it is time that we put together a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) resource for folks that visit the Beef to School Webpage.

So, if you find yourself asking questions as complicated as “I want to sell my beef to schools; how do I get started?” or as simple as “What is the difference between wet aged beef and dry aged beef?”… rest assured that you can find an answer in the B2S FAQ.

We’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the B2S Coalition Members that helped with this document. Whether you submitted a question, or helped to craft the answers, our team almost had a cow over the support that we got from the coalition and we offer you a hearty thanks on this mooooomentous occasion.
Additionally, we’d like to offer up our thanks to ALL of the wonderful B2S partners that have made this project a reality. We are udderly thrilled to have your support.

Remember that all of our B2S resources can be found at the Beef to School Webpage and that regular B2S updates can be found on the Montana Farm to School Facebook page (formerly the B2S Facebook page).