Empty plates at the cafeteria tables extend the best compliment to the cooks and North Dakota’s farmers and food makers.
About 1,700 students and staff at Jamestown Schools dine on pasta from Dakota Growers in Carrington, melons and red peppers from nearby farms, and French fries from the Cavendish Farms potato plant in town.
“We buy North Dakota foods for our school cafeterias because we want to support our own backyard,” says Shelley Mack, food service director and dietitian for the Jamestown Public School District. “We want to support the farmers working for us. It’s great food security for North Dakota, and the products are great. There is really no reason not to buy from North Dakota.”
Since 2011, the Jamestown School District has partnered with local farmers for fresh produce. Mack says students especially love the watermelon and corn on the cob. Another requested favorite is pot roast from Cloverdale Foods in Mandan with locally grown roasted potatoes and carrots, a hearty meal served on Pride of Dakota Day.
“For the kids, the No. 1 reason we purchase North Dakota foods is the quality,” Mack says. “The quality, taste and freshness are better.”
Across the state, food service directors like Mack look first to products grown or made in state, like milk from North Dakota bottling plants, and whole-grain breadsticks and cinnamon rolls from Baker Boy, which is based in Dickinson. In fact, Baker Boy sells an estimated $800,000 to $1 million worth of products per year to North Dakota schools through food service distributors.
“A lot of these schools are looking for cleaner-label products with whole grains because whole grains are better,” says Craig VanHyfte, director of sales and marketing for Baker Boy. “Over the last 14 years, we’ve grown our product assortment to 32 different whole-grain items that we manufacture and sell to schools. A lot of these products we developed from our relationship with those schools and learned what they wanted.”
Benefitting Students and Businesses
Baker Boy proves undeterred by kids’ picky palates. In school cafeterias throughout the state, students may dine on the company’s dinner rolls, biscuits, garlic toast and various sandwich buns while largely unaware of their wholesome whole-grain content. For breakfast, school kitchens may offer the company’s whole-grain cinnamon rolls or donuts. In fact, Baker Boy’s whole-grain, ready-to-ice long john doughnut is one of the company’s top-selling products, says Guy Moos, the company’s president.
“I think the defining moment for our company and our product line is we make baked goods with whole grains and the kids like them,” he says. “They taste good. That is the defining factor.”
Moos’ father started Baker Boy in 1955, which transitioned into food service in 1979. Since 1982, the family business has served schools, growing its distribution to throughout the Midwest and West and into Alaska.
“Working with the local schools has always been a really good sales opportunity for Baker Boy because usually if one school has a need, then multiple schools in the same area have that need,” VanHyfte says. “We’ve been able to create and take that same product to other schools.”
To boot, Baker Boy makes its goods with lots of North Dakota ingredients, including butter from Pride Dairy, flour from the North Dakota Mill, yeast from Dakota Yeast and sugar from Crystal Sugar near Fargo.