What does an owl named Orphelia have to do with a burrito?
That’s a question only a third-grader in Truxton Academy Charter School could answer.
Jennifer Hull’s class came home with a first place win in the statewide Top Cut Beef Contest that sought recipes in street food, marketing of that food and asked kids to explore the beef industry.
Kaylin Cirbus, 8, a third-grader, drew the the school’s mascot, Orphelia the owl next to a burrito on T-shirts printed for a marketing campaign that would coincide with its “Beefy Burrito Bar” submission in the Top Cut Beef Contest.
“I came up with the burrito on back,” said Amira Petit-McLure, 9.
Marathon High School also won first place for its cheesy steakatoes and won “most entrepreneurial” in the contest with entries by Crystal Aukema’s agricultural/shop class. Sponsored by the New York Ag in Classroom and NY Beef Council, the contest saw 27 schools participate across New York.
The kids had to come up with a recipe and marketing strategy, and understand safe handling and possible careers in the industry.
Winners got $250 and a banner. Marathon saw an extra $25 for its most entrepreneurial win.
“This is very exciting,” Aukema said. “All the students love taking part in the beef project and we have been doing this for the past five years.”
Aukema’s Ag in the Classroom did virtual field trips, talking to beef producers and went to a restaurant where a chef demonstrated cooking with beef.
“I want students to be prepared for their future as consumers,” Aukema said. “Many may not go into production agriculture, but they all will be consumers of agriculture products.”
Aukema had three students enter the contest to come up with the ad campaign and recipe.
Brooklin Drake, a senior, won first place in the high school division. Her cheesy steakato is a baked potato loaded with steak and topped with cheese, peppers, onions and a choice of sauce.
“I actually was trying to think outside the box, but at the last minute, I decided I want wanted to go basic. I knew cheesy steakatoes would be a hit at fairs, college events, etc.,” she said.
It’s similar to a Philly cheesesteak, she said. “The best thing about it is once you finish eating the meat, you have extra potato to eat as a loaded baked potato.”
Drake lives on a dairy farm with some 655 Holsteins. Her family breeds some of the animals to be beefers.
She really got into the marketing of her idea.
“I love the business side of things,” Drake said. “I decided to create an advertisement video to draw people into buying the cheesy steakato. Advertisement is key when it comes to getting your product out.” She had ads on social media and made a catchy jingle:
“Do you like cheesesteaks? What about potatoes? Have you tried our steak-atoe?”
At Truxton Academy, the kids were thinking in another direction
“We were thinking of something that wasn’t that messy,” Amira said. “It is street food. We came up with burritos, which had beef in it. We came up with ingredients.”
Their slogan: “Beef, are you hungry now?”
“What made it unique?” Hull asked Kaylin and Amira at her class on Feb. 23. “Everyone can make their own. Everyone can put what they want on it.”
Kids learned about nutrition, about the importance of using smaller portions of beef, and they emphasized healthy toppings: guacamole, black beans, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese.
“I came up with the beans,” said Kylin Burrows, 10.
Claire Tice, 9, cut tomatoes while Kylin chopped lettuce for a similar taco meal this month as they talked about the project.
“Last year, we used lettuce from our grow towers,” said Heather Boyden, physical education teacher, pointing to tubes in the cafeteria where lettuce was growing inside.
The kids set up the beef burrito bar for all the grades. “I served to the people,” said Chantalise Downing, 10.
“I am super excited we won,” Hull said. “They have to do the work themselves. It’s a hard-working class, so they deserve it. I am really proud of them for winning the contest.”