2017-11-09 / Front Page

District receives Golden Radish Award for ‘farm to school’ accomplishments

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 over 40 percent of Georgia school districts with outstanding farm to school programs, and Lincoln Coun­ty was included among them.

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.

Lincoln County School District was recognized at the “honorary” level for its accomplishments dur­ing the 2016-17 school year, which includes serving locally grown food each month and promoting the local items with signage on the serving line.

Superintendent Dr. Samuel Light explained, “It is an honorary award because it starts at an honorary level, and then as the program progresses you get a higher level. It is based on the school district purchasing and using locally grown or Georgia grown food items, as opposed to food items that you purchase from other states. Our food service is purchasing items from Georgia, not only trying to increase the freshness, but also to incorporate items that are locally grown.”

Light also highlighted that the ag­riculture instructor at Lincoln County High School, Chase McGill, has helped students to establish growing beds for produce. There are now four growing beds located in-between the middle and high school cafeteria and the middle school hallway. Not only do students have the opportunity to learn a farming skill, but they also have the opportunity to eat the prod­uct that they’ve grown, which also played a part in Lincoln County re­ceiving the Golden Radish Award.

Using farm to school to implement the district’s wellness policy states that all students should be provided “nutrition education that is interac­tive, teaches the skills necessary to adopt healthy eating behaviors, and includes enjoyable, developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant, par­ticipatory activities such as contests, promotions, taste testing, farm visits, and school gardens.”

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,” Associate Dean for UGA Extension at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Laura Perry Johnson said. “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,” State Superintendent Richard Woods said. “When children eat fresh, healthy meals, they have the fuel they need for a successful day of learning.”

Georgia Commissioner of Agri­culture Gary W. Black noted that while farm to school efforts sup­port academic achievement, they also help build a strong agricultural economy.

“‘Feed My School For a Week, Georgia Grown Test Kitchen’ and the Golden Radish Awards are all great ways for school nutrition to support Georgia producers, and we are ex­cited as to what current and future award winners will accomplish as we work toward our 2020 ‘Vision for School Nutrition’ in Georgia.”

Department of Public Health Com­missioner J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., has also championed healthy food access for children and supports farm to school efforts.

“The vitamins, minerals, and health benefits from local fresh fruits and vegetables not only allow our children to be physically healthy, but research has shown that healthy eating is also key to brain develop­ment,” O’.Neal .said. .“Here .in .Geor­gia, . we are leading the nation in iden­tifying ways to increase early brain development, and healthy nutrition is an enormous part of that.”

Georgia Organics founded the state’s first farm to school program in 2007. Since then, communities across the state have embraced the benefits of bringing students and fresh, local food closer together.

“It’s astounding that over 40 percent of our school districts are actively involved in the Golden Rad­ish Awards after only four years of establishing the program,” Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls stated. “This is an exciting trajectory given the great impact farm to school has had on child nutrition, farmer prosperity, rural development, local economies, and public health.”

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