Metro students race the clock to make winning pitches in Farm to Table Challenge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Everyone dreams of winning money on a TV gameshow.

Students in the metro hot their own taste of that thrill on Tuesday, entering a Shark Tank-style event in Wyandotte County.

One minute. That's all the time given to student groups in the Farm to Table Challenge. Young people from 12 schools across the metro entered the would-be Shark Tank sponsored by Dairy Farmers of America. Their farm-to-table ideas could win part of $15,000 in grants for their schools.

Each group presented its ideas to a panel of four judges. In true Shark Tank tradition, a buzzer sounded if time ran out on their presentations. These student groups, representing high schools and middle schools from across the Kansas City metro, came up with their ideas on the fly, having gathered for quick brainstorming sessions earlier in the day. Those judges scrutinized their pitches, as they competed for grant cash, one thousand bucks at a time.

Their pitches presented ideas based on money, resources, nutrition and education:

  • "We can get local farmers to give us produce."
  • "You can choose any type of smoothie you want."
  • "We want to use our money for cooking supplies."

James Euston, an eighth-grader from Blue Valley Middle School, and his group, want to use the money for fresh fruit smoothies in the school cafeteria. They turned out to be one of 15 winners, after telling judges better nutrition would help them become better students.

"It will help our student body become healthier. When you're healthier, we'll perform better in grades and we will be more active learners," Euston said on Tuesday.

Tess Kinne, a sophomore from Fort Osage High School, says her group already has $500 to assist with an effort to ask regional farmers to donate fresh produce to their cafeteria. An extra dose of grant money from Dairy Farmers of America would be a positive addition, especially for the school's athletes, like Kinne, who long for healthier food to eat at school.

"We have to go to the school lunch to get lunch or to get something in our bodies. There aren't many options, like, fresh food options to pick from, or anything that's not breaded or packaged," Kinne told FOX 4 News.

Mike Lichte, DFA's Vice-President, says his idea people are excited to work with these industrious students, who are taking an interest in the betterment of their schools.

"Not all great ideas come from the super-intelligent adults," Lichte said. "We're there to give the helpful hand. We've been there. We have the experience. Hopefully, we can find a better-formed idea that we can bring from concept to implementation."

A DFA spokesperson says judges heard 24 total pitches, and others were interested in competing, since there was a waiting list to enter. That suggests they`ll hold this contest again in 2018.

Most of the panel of judges came from Dairy Farmers of America's leadership team. Adventure Capital and the Midwest Dairy Council were also sponsors of the event.