Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Black Hills Pioneer. September 24, 2021.

Editorial: Local foods can fuel our youth

When food tastes better, kids are more likely to eat it, providing them with the nutrition they need.

And with the fall bounty of produce upon us, we know that tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn and other products taste much better when we buy them from local producers.

Area food service directors have realized the same. Belle Fourche, Spearfish, Newell and the Meade School District all have purchased locally-produced foods in the past for their food service programs.

In the Meade School District, students recently devoured 15 pounds of cucumbers in two days at one school and were pleasantly surprised to find local sweet corn on the cob on the menu on another day.

Working through the Black Hills Farmers Market, the Meade School District is able to provide such produce through its Farm to School Program.

District officials believe, as do we, that this program is a win/win for all involved. Schools can buy local fresh produce to feed to appreciative students while at the same time pumping money into the local economy.

Dakota Rural Action has been working on Farm to School issues across South Dakota since 2010. They believe also that the Farm to School movement which serves to connect schools to local farmers and increases learning about food production in schools statewide.

They have focused on three main areas of Farm to School: 1) serving local foods in the school cafeteria, 2) implementing school and youth gardens, and 3) encouraging students to learn about the food system through in class activities and on-farm field trips.

Farm to School benefits students, farmers, communities, and the environment. Students get hands-on experience with agriculture, and studies show Farm to School Programs increase fruit and vegetable consumption at school and at home, and even increased physical activity and self-esteem as students gain new life skills.

And, increasing children’s interest in healthier foods has been shown to impact parents’ food shopping choices as well.

We’re sold on the program. We hope that the Northern Hills schools who do purchase local produce will continue to do so, and encourage other districts to explore the possibilities of this program.

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Yankton Press & Dakotan. September XX, 2021.

Editorial: College Enrollments Parked In Neutral

The newest enrollment numbers released last week for South Dakota’s public universities indicate the state’s higher education system is still struggling to build some traction as we embark on the third decade of the 21st century.

To be sure, overall enrollment didn’t fall greatly, which is a good thing. The figures released last week by the Board of Regents show that the university system saw an overall decrease of 121 students, a mild decline of 0.35%. However, the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) students dropped by 621 students, or 2.53%.

Overall, it could be said that the system remains in a holding pattern, a plateau of relative stability that shows neither promising growth nor worrisome declines.

And perhaps there is a little bit of encouragement there.

South Dakota’s university system, like colleges nationwide, has been dealing with some serious headwinds the last several years. They include the skyrocketing price of a college education (which can translate into a crushing long-term debt), coupled with other educational options such as technical education. Also, demographics suggest there is simply a smaller pool of traditional college-age students, and those diverse options (including online learning) have created a tough road for colleges in general.

On that note, the University of South Dakota (USD) announced its fall enrollment — its overall head count went up by five but FTEs declined by 2.66% — by emphasizing the gains made in attracting international students, setting a record in that category. Also, the school reported increases among graduate, law and medical students. USD also showed some growth in attracting students from Iowa and Minnesota.

“Especially when taken in the context of national enrollment trends, the status of enrollment at USD is encouraging,” USD President Sheila K. Gestring said in the press release.

Of course, one must also consider the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on university attendance.

“Enrollments are substantially flat and that is about what we expected, since we still see impacts from the ongoing pandemic,” Brian L. Maher, the regents’ executive director and CEO, said in the press release.

Overall, the news from the regents regarding enrollment could have been worse, but it needs to get better. In order for the state’s public universities to continue offering a top-level education and to remain innovative and, yes, relevant, they must grow their student base, and the process needs to start soon. The fact that so many colleges across the country are in the same boat may be of some consolation, but at some point, real answers must be found.

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