Clarke County Named “Outstanding District” for Farm to School

ClarkeATLANTA— Clarke County School District was given the “Outstanding District” Golden Radish Award, the highest level of recognition in the state for farm to school programs.

The school district was recognized at the state Capitol on Oct. 7 for its successful work to educate students on nutrition and agriculture by State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and Georgia Organics Board Chair Mandy Mahoney.

Clarke County School District was also recognized at the Gold level for their accomplishments during the last school year, which include:

  • Each week, locally grown food items were featured in school meals, including summer squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, collard greens, watermelon, strawberries, and peaches.
  • The district held 41 taste test events throughout the year.
  • Every Clarke County school has a school garden space, where students gain hands-on experience and learn how to install, maintain, and harvest a garden. Clarke County hosted 27 garden workdays for school communities.
  • The school district has forged partnerships with a dozen community partners to ensure the success of school gardens and to maximize the educational opportunities. These partners include: Master Gardeners, the UGA Horticulture Department and UGArden students, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, Athens Land Trust, FoodCorps, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and University of Georgia Extension.
  • Farm to School topics were integrated into the school curriculum in the form of Green School Lessons, led by the Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful School Garden Network. Green School Lessons were taught at all levels K-8 throughout the district. The primary focus of these lessons included planting techniques, garden use, and the connection to growing food.
  • Athens Land Trust volunteers and FoodCorps service members hosted 58 guided cooking demonstrations throughout the school year for middle and high school students. Students learned how to cut, prepare, and accurately measure different featured vegetables. Each lesson featured a nutrition discussion and a taste test of the recipe prepared.

School districts across Georgia are using farm to school programs to teach core curriculum, support their local economies, fight obesity and other preventable, food-related diseases, and increase the amount of local food they serve to their students.

The support from district-level advocates is huge for the success of farm-to-school programs. Stacy Smith, Keep Athens Clark County Beautiful Education specialist, describes the School Nutrition team. “Paula Farmer and Hilary Savage are so good at working with us. They collaborate on garden programs, the school district garden newsletter, they organize wellness initiatives. It’s just really easy to work with them. They are just awesome!”

The 2015 Golden Radish Award recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school during the 2014-2015 school year—from local food procurement to hosting taste tests to gardening with students—and is awarded at Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorary Levels to districts with varying levels of farm to school programs.

Richard Woods, Georgia’s School Superintendent states, “Eating fresh, locally sourced food at school is great for our students. When kids are healthy and energized, they’re ready to tackle their academic tasks. Farm to School also provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the role and impact of agriculture – Georgia’s largest industry – in our state.”

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black couldn’t agree more. “Our programs, like Feed My School for a Week and the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen, inspire students to expand their taste buds and connect with the farmers who support the state of Georgia. We are thrilled to participate in the Golden Radish Awards and to assist in creating markets for farmers that also benefit our children’s health and education.”

“Having access to locally grown fruits and vegetables is so important for teaching children healthy eating habits now,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Poor nutrition can cause health problems, overweight and obesity, and inhibit healthy brain development, including the ability to acquire language and literacy. The habits children pick up at this age will lead to healthy physical, emotional and intellectual outcomes that they will carry into adolescence and adulthood.”

“It is incredible to see the growth of farm to school programs in the last few years,” stated Mandy Mahoney, Georgia Organics Board Chair.  “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 school and agricultural leaders invest in these programs and in our children.”

Districts were evaluated on their work in ten different activities of farm to school.

Collectively, the school systems:

  • Held 4,352 taste tests of fresh, local food to students
  • Taught nearly 1,809 garden, food and nutrition lessons to students
  • Tended 328 edible school gardens
  • Hosted 725 hands-on cooking activities with students
  • Incorporated farm to school into 182 staff professional development opportunities
  • Championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 19 schools districts