Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture, Public Health, Education and Georgia Organics came together under the prestigious Gold Dome for the annual Golden Radish Awards to celebrate incredible gains made in the farm to school movement. 53 school districts—nearly one-third of all public school districts in Georgia with a reach of over 1 million students—are now participating in farm to school programs and recognized through the Golden Radish Awards.
Ware County Schools was recognized with the Golden Radish Award at the Honorary level for their accomplishments during the 2015-2016 school year, which include:
1) Local food was featured on their menu 25 times. Many of the farms they sourced from were from within 30 miles of the district, including Regenerate blueberry juice, Griffin Meats beef, Zachary Farms sweet potatoes, Moore’s Farm cherry tomatoes, and Lane’s Bridge hydroponic lettuce
2) The community has rallied together to help make farm to school happen in Ware County. For instance, parents and community leaders connected with local farmers and assisted with delivery and pick up from farms. Local pediatricians ate lunch with students to encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The Golden Radish Award publicly recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school, from local food procurement to hosting taste tests to gardening with students, and is awarded at Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorary Levels. Districts were evaluated on their work in ten different activities of farm to school.
“It is incredible to see the growth of farm to school programs in the last few years,” stated Alice Rolls, Georgia Organics Executive Director. “Every day, children across our state are getting the opportunity to grow and taste Georgia food in school. I’m excited to see Georgia’s schools invest in Georgia farmers and in our children at the same time.”
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.
“Our ultimate goal here at the department is for communities to take ownership of their school cafeterias, similarly to how we all push for excellence in the classroom, the arts, and athletics,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. “We are proud to have so many Georgia Grown Feed My School participants recognized here today and are excited as to what current and future Golden Radish Award winners will accomplish as we work toward our 2020 Vision for School Nutrition in Georgia.”
State Superintendent Richard Woods agreed with Commissioner Black, emphasizing the benefits of connecting education to Georgia’s largest industry. “Having access to fresh, farm to school meals is great for Georgia’s students,” said Woods. “Farm to school programs also connect students with agriculture, which is an enormously important industry for our state. We appreciate the Golden Radish Award because it recognizes those school districts that are striving every day to provide more farm to school meals.”
To top it off, Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, noted the combined educational and long-term health benefits of farm to school. “Farm to school teaches our children the importance of food that helps bodies grow healthy and strong and food that promotes learning,” said Fitzgerald. “When children learn as early as possible where their food comes from, they are more likely to eat fresh, nutritious foods that will sustain healthy choices that spread to families and communities.”
During the 2015-2016 school year, school districts collectively:
· Served 39 million school meals that included local food
· Held 8,246 taste tests of fresh, local food to students
· Taught 3,406 garden, food and nutrition lessons to students
· Tended 575 edible school gardens
· Hosted 1,935 hands-on cooking activities with students
· Incorporated farm to school into 390 staff professional development opportunities
· Championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 29 districts.
Needless to say, the 2015-16 school year was a banner year for farm to school in Georgia, and all participants were thrilled to celebrate at the Golden Radish Awards.
Pictured from left to right: Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, School Nutrition Manager Brenda Thomas, Ware County School Nutrition Director Laura Deen, Ware County Schools Superintendent Jim LeBrun, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, and Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls