ATLANTA, October 30, 2017- Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture, Education and Public Health, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and Georgia Organics came together at the historic Georgia Railroad Freight Depot to celebrate the over 40 percent of Georgia school districts with outstanding farm to school programs. Seventy-five school districts, serving more than one million students in Georgia, are now participating in farm to school. These districts served more than 97 million school meals with local food items during the 2016-17 school year.
School Nutrition Director Bridgette Matthews (pictured above 3rd from left) received the Georgia Organics Golden Radish Award for the school district's farm-to-school program. Also, in attendance from Elbert County was School Nutrition Coordinator Tina Hudson, Director of Teaching and Learning Tanya Long, and Elbert County Primary School Principal Rosa Harris. The Elbert County School District was recognized at the Gold level for their accomplishments during the 2016-17 school year, including:
- Conducting 20 taste tests throughout the school year with items harvested from the school garden including radishes, green beans, and basil.
- They have a Work Based Learning Class that engages students in farm to school work in school gardens, teaching farm to school curriculum and overseeing “Devil’s Dirt.”, the new venture partnership venture of School Nutrition and Elbert County Comprehensive High School Agriculture classes, Environmental Sciences classes, audio/visual classes and FFA. Devil’s Dirt is compost made from cafeteria scraps, which will be used in all the school gardens. Excess compost will be sold to community members as a fundraiser.
- They hosted a Farm to School Day at Elbert County Primary School and all students dressed up as farmers. Students visited nine interactive stations hosted by area farmers to learn about rabbits, guinea hogs, goats, tractors, strawberries and honey bees.
The Golden Radish Award publicly recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school, from local food procurement to hosting taste tests and gardening with students. This year, the Golden Radish partners awarded 26 new school districts and welcomed a new partner-UGA Extension. “UGA Extension is so excited to promote healthy eating habits and incorporate Georgia’s great agricultural food products into our school lunchrooms,” said Associate Dean for UGA Extension at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Laura Perry Johnson. “This is a natural partnership that benefits us as well as the school kids who get to enjoy these tasty and nutritious products.”
Districts of all sizes are utilizing farm to school programs to teach academic standards in school gardens, support the local economy through local food purchases for school meals, and fight childhood obesity and other preventable food-related diseases. “Access to fresh, locally grown food is not just important for students’ physical health – it’s part of their academic development as well,” said State Superintendent Richard Woods. “When children eat fresh, healthy meals, they have the fuel they need for a successful day of learning.”
The 2016-17 school year was a record breaking year of farm to school growth in Georgia. The Golden Radish school districts collectively:
- Served over 97 million meals that featured locally grown and raised foods
- Conducted 8,204 taste tests
- Taught 7,263 standards based lessons
- Tended 885 school gardens
- Engaged students in 3,794 hands on cooking activities
- Involved parents and community members in 1,339 farm to school activities