ATLANTA - Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture, Public Health, Education and Georgia Organics came together under the prestigious Gold Dome on Monday for the annual Golden Radish Awards to celebrate incredible gains made in the farm to school movement and Effingham County Schools was chosen as one of the recipients.
53 school districts - nearly one-third of all public school districts in Georgia with a reach of over one million students - are now participating in farm to school programs and were recognized through the Golden Radish Awards.
Effingham County Schools was recognized with the Golden Radish Award at the Silver level for their accomplishments during the 2015-2016 school year. Those accomplishments include: locally grown food was featured on 145 days and included produce from Heritage Organic Farm in Guyton and Walker Organic Farm in Sylvania; eight taste tests were conducted to expose students to new fruits and vegetables, including several different types of radishes, turnips, kale, cucumbers and white sweet potatoes; and students interacted with farmers on six different occasions.
Fourth grade students in Effingham County participated in a district-wide lunch contest in which the class with the highest lunch participation for a week won a farm field trip.
Students also visited Heritage Organic Farm to learn about vermiculture, organic farming practices, beneficial insects and composting.
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,” Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls said. “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,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said. “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,” Woods said. “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,” Fitzgerald said. “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 and championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 29 schools districts.