A unique agricultural outreach program directed at Nebraska fourth-graders continues to grow in popularity.
The Nebraska AG Sack Lunch Program takes advantage of the fact that over 20-thousand fourth-graders visit the State Capitol Building in Lincoln each year as part of their curriculum. The Sack Lunch program offers them a free lunch featuring foods produced in Nebraska, and a 15-minute presentation from college-age “Ag Ambassadors” on where their food comes from.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) student Courtney Schardt, who is from Table Rock, is one of this year’s Ag Ambassadors.
“The main message is just that Nebraska’s agriculture is important and that everything in their lunch comes from Nebraska—from the bread to the corn chips, everything comes from there—and we want them to know that,” says Schardt.
Ag Ambassador Catherine Ripp, a UNL student from Ravenna, says they get some interesting questions and comments from the fourth-graders.
“They’re really surprised on how the things that their parents do in cities, whether they work at a grocery stores or a floral shop, are related to ag—because one in three jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture and they don’t understand that,” Ripp says. “So the comments we get back are ‘Whoa, that’s awesome!’—and they really enjoy it, I think.”
One of schools participating in this year’s program was the Whitetail Elementary School of Gretna, a community just outside of Omaha. Sandy Spethman is a fourth-grade teacher at the school.
“You know, a lot of these kids are city kids and so they’re not used to a lot of the agricultural products and the items that come from some of these products—so it’s a great way to get them informed,” Spethman says. “It’s a very nice program and it offers us a chance to get out and not have to worry about lunches that day—so it’s great.”
Spethman estimates that less than 20 percent of her students live on farms. For fourth-grader Samuel Nelson, the greatest revelation was that not all cows are black and white.
“There are red cows, too,” Nelson says.
The AG Sack Lunch Program is sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association and the Nebraska Corn Board.