Participation in the AG Sack Lunch Program for Nebraska fourth-graders remains strong as the program, begun in September 2010, resumes for the spring semester. It is sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board and the Nebraska Pork Producers.
More than 3,300 fourth-grade students representing 72 schools in the eastern third of the state are scheduled to participate this spring in the program, which is designed to educate Nebraska students on the important role agriculture plays in the state's economy. First-semester participation totaled 1,224 students from 26 public and private schools.
In all, 98 schools and 4,578 students will have participated in the program through the 2010-2011 school year.
The program takes advantage of the fact that over 20,000 fourth-graders visit the State Capitol Building in Lincoln each year as part of their curriculum. Events include a sack lunch featuring nutritious foods produced in Nebraska, a 15-minute presentation by college "ag ambassadors" on the vital role agriculture plays in the state's economy, and a card game designed for students to take home to carry an ag-centered message to their families. The "Ag Ambassadors" are UNL students.
Their presentations tell students that one in three jobs in Nebraska have some connection to agriculture, including a variety of support industries such as equipment manufacturing and sales, building construction, transportation and feed retailers. Of these jobs, only about 10% are traditional farmers.
"We'd been talking with the Soybean Board for several months about putting together a program that would help us reach a young audience about the importance of agriculture to Nebraska," says Kyla Wize, youth leadership and events specialist for the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. "The kids come to Lincoln to tour the State Capitol Building as part of their fourth-grade curriculum anyway, so we thought this was a good time to reach them with our message. And they need to have lunch, so it all came together."
Lisa Lunz, Wakefield producer and chairman of the soybean board, says she wasn't completely surprised by the response. "We thought the program would be appealing to teachers because it presents excellent information to the students, and they would not have to bring their lunches for the day."
Given the first-year success of the AG Lunch program, it may become an annual event.
For more information, call Karen Brokaw 402-432-2299.