The Georgia Department of Education has been recognized by the federal government for its state promotion of Farm to School across Georgia, and three school systems were singled out for special recognition.
GaDOE, in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, created the 2020 Vision initiative, a goal to have at least 20 percent of all school-meal menus include Georgia-grown products. Additionally, the vision challenges 20 percent of Georgia schools to serve at least 50 percent Georgia-grown products out of all menu items.
"When students eat fresh, healthy, locally grown meals, they are physically ready to learn and they're actively learning about a key sector of Georgia's economy," State School Superintendent Richard Woods. "I'm proud of the work our school nutrition division has done, with partners like the Department of Agriculture, Georgia Organics, the UGA Extension Service, the Georgia Farm Bureau and the incredible school nutrition staff in Georgia's schools."
In 2015-2016 alone, Georgia schools served 39 million school meals that included fresh, local produce, held a total of 8,246 taste tests and students received 3,406 garden and nutrition lessons. Of those school gardens tended, 575 of them were edible.
“It is wonderful that so many of our local school system nutrition directors are utilizing our Farm to School Toolkit and are involved in farm to school activities," GaDOE School Nutrition Director Nancy Rice said. "In conjunction with Career, Technical, & Agricultural Education, the directors are collaborating with teachers and 4H clubs designing and growing school gardens for student learning. They also work beautifully with school culinary programs to develop and test recipes. The directors are working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Organics to increase farm to school connections supporting our wonderful Georgia farmers. With the help of UGA’s Extension Service and Georgia Farm Bureau they are implementing more 'Ag in the Classroom'. All this helps educate the whole child – that is, after all, our primary goal.”
These Georgia school systems also received USDA Best Practice Awards:
*Burke County Schools is recognized for their Farmer’s Market in Waynesboro, Ga. The weekly market serves over 50 families.
Burke County Schools is also recognized for Promoting a Healthy School Environment in the Small SFA Category. The school system won this award for their cooking demonstration program, “Charlie Cart.” The cart is stocked with tools, equipment, and a lesson plan book. Students are exposed to lessons that emphasize nutrition and cooking, but also integrate math, English, science and social studies.
*Gainesville City Schools received recognition for their farm-to-school program. The school system developed a calendar to showcase a Georgia-grown product each month and showcasing it on the menu at all school locations.
*Rabun County Schools received recognition for their efforts to increase School Breakfast participation. Each morning students can participate in “Breakfast at Break,” which allows time for a quick, pre-wrapped breakfast between classes.
Other Georgia school systems received Best Practice Awards for the Southeast Region. Those winners were recognized at the Georgia School Nutrition Association Fall SY 2018 Kick-Off Luncheon earlier this fall. A panel judged nominees on sustained excellence, innovation, impact, cost effectiveness and efficiency, transferability, and presentation.