Local beef on Waverly school lunch menu thanks to student’s passion project

Pure Nebraska
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 11:27 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2022 at 11:51 AM CDT
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WAVERLY, Neb. (KOLN) - Local beef is now on the school lunch menu at District 145 Schools at Waverly, and students and parents are in support of the project.

The idea to get local beef in the schools at Waverly is that of Kolter Wellman. The idea is now a reality. We first interviewed him about it in March. “It kind of started when my mom got an e-mail from the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association, and she showed it to me,” Wellman said. “They showed how other schools are getting their beef in schools.”

Through the “Beef it Up” program, Waverly students like those at the high school are now getting the chance to enjoy locally-sourced beef for lunch. On the day we visited, the beef was provided by an anonymous Lancaster County donor. Middle school counselor Brook Ruhter is proud of Kolter Wellman’s efforts to start all of this. “He really lives this mission,” Ruhter said. “This is not just something that is fun for him. He believes in this, and he wants to spread his passion and awareness to everyone in the district.”

Part of the mission is to raise awareness about agriculture.

“I think it brings recognition to the ag community that we are living in around us,” Superintendent Cory Worrell said. “Waverly, Eagle, our school district, has ag around us. We not only want to enhance our food program, but also recognize the ag that’s around us. I think this program does that. Also, any time we can bring the outside in to the schools, we want to do that.”

“It’s important for students to know where their food comes from,” parent and donor Jessie Zuniga said. “It’s also important for students to know that local farmers and ranchers care about them and care about what they are eating. Local farmers and ranchers have donated their own cattle to this program. It’s such a huge contribution, and it’s important for kids to know farmers and ranchers are doing that for them in the schools.”

What Kolter Wellman has done is potentially inspiring other students to see that a dream-- like creating a local beef in schools program-- can be realized.

“He’s had to show resiliency in meeting with adults and board members, and organizing things on his end,” Middle School Principal Ross Ricenbaw said. “He’s been responsible, and this embodies everything we want our students to do.”

The Beef it Up program at Waverly has grown to the point where it now has a board to guide it. “Right now there are three of us on the beef board,” Ruhter said. “This includes Kolter, myself, and a district 145 graduate. There’s a lot of other people like the Wellman’s behind us, who are just out raising awareness, too.”

The school district is thankful for donations to keep this project moving forward. “Parents have opinions about school lunches,” Zuniga said. “We have a group like Kolter and the beef board willing to bring quality into our school lunches, and I think it’s really important to get behind that.”

More than ever, local schools are working to find ways to highlight the work of farmers and ranchers while providing great nutrition. Thanks to an initial idea by Kolter Wellman, school lunches at Waverly are looking even better.