Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kids Get the Skinny on Whole Grains in North Dakota

Photo courtesy of Richland County Extension

In Lidgerwood, North Dakota, the issue childhood obesity is being addressed by a group of people committed to developing acceptance of whole grain products through experiential learning, child-friendly marketing, and colorful packaging. The goals for their project, “Kids Get the Skinny on Whole Grains,” are to create a niche market for their white wheat products for sustainability, profit for family farms, and healthier kids in the region.

Working in an extension office, co-owner of Dakota Family Mill, Adrian Biewer, became aware of the health needs that wholegrain products could address. Developing a better tasting wholegrain product made practical sense. In 2006, the farm families of Dakota Family Mill, Duane and Jean Smith, Bob and Debra Evenson, and Adrian and Anne Biewer, submitted a proposal to the NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant program, and were selected for funding.

They chose the SARE grant program because it was flexible. “It best fit our needs and it also would allow us to meet the need for nutritional education in the communities,” explained Biewer. Community outreach, especially to kids, is an essential component of the project.

“I have always enjoyed the flavor and texture of whole grain,” explained Richland County Extension agent and project participant Colleen Svingen, “But as research continues to reveal the numerous health benefits of whole grains it reinforces the need to teach the health benefits to the public.”

In addition to programming for 35 4-H students at various age levels, “Kids Get The Skinny on Whole Grains” has met with much success with their “Bread in a Bag” program reaching 190 students, and also at each afterschool program in seven elementary schools reaching 130 students with “Pretzel in a Bag.”

The owners of Dakota Family Mill have been pleased with the response to the products, and are hopeful that production costs can be cut.

“People who have tried the products seem to really like them. However, we really wish we could do it cheaper so more would consider buying it. When you line it up with other products at, say, Walmart, - it looks expensive. And, there are no places close to us to custom mill or pack,” said Biewer.

Through this project, the owners of Dakota Family Mill have learned many aspects of the flour business.

“Most companies want huge quantities of product to work with thus either our company did not have that much product or it would be too expensive at this time,” said Biewer. “It has been a learning experience to work with our local grocer. They were very open to offering our product on the shelf and have started providing baked white wheat products from their bakery. We were part of the baking mix refinements for their batches and were asked to evaluate their products. They have been very helpful and will enable us to better meet the needs of future customers.”

The group is confident that people are ready and willing to learn about and embrace the idea of eating more whole grains. They stress that White Wheat Whole Grain Flour can be used in ordinary recipes, and teach that whole grains can be implemented in recipes and food for every meal of the day.

The group hopes to become more experienced at sales strategy, marketing, and develop a larger market area.

Read more about their project online or contact the NCR-SARE office for more information.

No comments: