ATLANTA — The Effingham County School District, a two-time Platinum Level Golden Radish Award winner, is the recipient of Georgia Organics’ 2019 Organic Radish Award.
This is the second year; Georgia Organics has awarded the Organic Radish Award, which recognizes a school district that is working with sustainable and/or Certified Organic farms through procurement and/or education.
When considering which program to honor with the Organic Radish Award, Effingham County stood out for several reasons. It uses certified organic sourcing in their cafeteria, incorporates organic standards and sustainability into its curriculum, and it supports its school lunch program through an organic produce box giveaway.
Effingham County’s keys to success include mentorship from a Farm to School Champion, partnership with an organic farm and the passion and ingenuity of Jessica O’Leary, Effingham County’s school nutrition director and leader of its Farm to School program.
As its Platinum-level status indicates, Effingham County has an accomplished Farm to School program. It has several school gardens where students work in greenhouses, planter boxes or in-ground gardens. It also does cooking in the classroom, taste tests and general lessons with students.
The district farm allows students to gain hands-on experience in agriculture mechanics, veterinary science and horticulture. The Effingham County Board of Education is very supportive of these efforts and gives assistance where needed.
O’Leary works with Heritage Organic Farm to source for her cafeterias and her organic produce box program. Heritage Organic Farm was the first farm in Georgia to become Certified Organic and they continue to be a leader in the field.
“We have been working with the Effingham School System and Jessica O'Leary for four years providing students and parents with information on the importance of organic food and providing nutritiously balanced organic food boxes to the families,” said Farmer Shirley Daughtry, CEO of Heritage Organic Farms. “I am proud of [Jessica] O’Leary for leading the school system in this endeavor. She has certainly deserved the Golden Radish Award,” she said.
As Effingham County continues to develop its program and promote organic practices, O’Leary hopes to turn the school nutrition garden on the district farm into a production garden.
“While we use the produce from the garden in the cafeterias, we hope to be able to grow more each year to use,” she said.