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Studentlivin'@msu: Cheeseburger ambassador spreads the word

Lacey Lingohr and a "perfect cheeseburger." MSU photo by Carol Flaherty.
Lacey Lingohr carried a perfect cheeseburger into Ridge View Elementary School recently.

Almost a foot thick, the cheeseburger consisted of a giant sesame seed bun, a beef hamburger patty, fringes of lettuce, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, tomato, pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard. It was so big that Lingohr kept it in a zippered red bag that looked more suitable for a pop-up tent than a sandwich.

"Where do we get buns?" the Montana State University junior asked almost 50 Belgrade-area third graders as she rebuilt the burger in front of them.

"From wheat," one answered.

"Where can we find wheat around here?" Lingohr continued.

"A farm," another responded.

So it went, as Lingohr used a bun-colored pillow, a hamburger pillow, a tomato pillow and slices of yellow, orange, red, green and white felt to show the students how a cheeseburger and some version of fruit can supply nutrition from every group in the traditional food pyramid. One student claimed she already knew about the existence of more than 400 kinds of cheese. The children had strong opinions about the taste of tomatoes, but weren't so sure if they were a fruit or vegetable.

"I thought they finally decided it was a vegetable, but I think there's probably going to be ongoing controversy over that," Lingohr said later as she waited to give another cheeseburger presentation.

Such is the life of the 2004-2005 Cheeseburger Chair for the MSU Cattlewomen. Elected last spring over two or three contenders, Lingohr gives and arranges "Perfect Cheeseburger" presentations to third graders around the Gallatin Valley. The long-time 4-H and FFA member from Malta loves cheeseburgers and grew up on beef, but admits to preferring a different title than the one she has.

"We don't really like being called 'The Cheeseburger,'" Lingohr said. "So I came up with 'Youth Beef Educator' or 'Beef Education Chair.'"

Lingohr has other ideas, too. The animal science major would like to prepare a preschool version of the cheeseburger presentation and cook cheeseburgers in the classroom. She's thinking about using colored wafers to build a snack that looks like a cheeseburger. In the past, she's given raw steaks to teachers and gift bags to students.

"It's really quite entertaining," Lingohr said.

"I like to help kids better understand agriculture," said Heidi Arlian, adding that some children think milk comes from refrigerators and grocery stores. Arlian of Big Timber was one of three MSU Cattlewomen who assisted Lingohr at Ridge View Elementary. The others were Cortni Guesanburu of Harlowton and Kristy Kohl from Wisconsin.

As devoted as Lingohr is to cheeseburgers this year, however, there's more to her than food. The student, who may pursue a career in agricultural public relations, remembers fondly the years she gravitated to her grandparents' ranch to raise steers and rabbits for 4-H. She went there to work on horsemanship, cow-calf and gardening projects.

"It's basically my peace and quiet," Lingohr said. "I love animals. I have always loved animals. I like the work, being outside."

Lingohr worked at the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge for the past two summers, looking for song bird nests in a research project for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She held one end of a 25-meter rope while someone else held the other end. Together, they walked through the grasslands with pop cans and soup cans dangling from the rope. Any time a bird flew up, they stopped and searched for its nest. If they found it, they recorded its location and details about the surroundings. Then they monitored the nests through the summer.

During the school year, Lingohr earns money by carrying mail between the departments and offices at MSU. She also eats cheeseburgers, but doesn't specify how many.

"I don't know. It's hard to say," she said. "I don't exactly eat a well-balanced diet at school, like most college kids."

Posted by Evelyn Boswell for 11/8/04

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