Anyone who has ever been to a meal prepared by Clarke County Schools’ Grow It Know It students knows that the program is special, and now the state knows as well.
Last week the Clarke County School District won the Golden Radish Innovative Partnership Award for collaborations including the Grow It Know It program. Grow It Know It is a partnership of the Clarke County School District, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, the UGArden student-run farm, UGA’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, the Barrow County School System and UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach.
The award, presented by Georgia Organics’ Golden Radish partner, the Georgia Department of Health, recognizes programs that embrace and promote healthy practices by forging local partnerships.
Grow It Know It Program Coordinator Wick Pritchard, grant coordinator Andie Bisceglia, Clarke County School District nutrition director Paula Farmer and four Grow It Know It students traveled to the fifth annual Golden Radish Awards at the Georgia Freight Depot on Oct. 22 to accept the award.
“We are proud of our Clarke County School District student participants in the Grow It Know It program. Their work in the school gardens, (Family and Consumer Sciences) labs, school produce stands, and summer programs, including the student-operated restaurant, directly contributed to the district’s partnerships,” said Pritchard, who is based in the UGA Extension office in Clarke County. “Thank you to our students. Our school gardens would not be possible without them.”
Grow It Know It coordinates a team of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at middle schools in Clarke and Barrow counties. They work with teachers to promote the use of school gardens and provide students with leadership opportunities and valuable real-life skills, all while encouraging sustainable agriculture. The program has tapped into UGA resources and the vibrant restaurant communities across northeast Georgia to make the program what it is today.
"Whenever something new and exciting is happening in a community, you can bet that there is more than one group of passionate people involved," said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean of UGA Extension. “The Grow it Know It program is an example of what can happen when community stakeholders — like the school system, UGA Extension and UGA Public Service (and Outreach) — work together to achieve a common goal.
“This type of collaboration is one of the major strengths of the Extension system in Georgia, and we are so proud that it has helped build a program as impactful as Grow It Know It.”
Throughout the school year, the volunteers work with students at each school to maintain a school garden, reduce cafeteria food waste through compost and food reuse, and provide fresh produce to the community.
During the summer, the Grow It Know It Kitchen Garden Corps program recruits students to maintain the school gardens and learn how to cook with fresh produce. At the end of each week, students operate a donation-based “pop-up restaurant” where they prepare and serve a three-course meal to a seating of 30-50 adults.
While the Grow It Know It program focuses on building healthier attitudes about nutrition, agriculture and cooking, the program also prepares students for employment by improving their leadership abilities and problem-solving skills in real work scenarios.
In addition to the recognition for the Grow It Know It program, the 2018 Golden Radish committee recognized Clarke County School District with its Platinum Golden Radish award for the second year in a row.
Clarke County was one of 84 school districts recognized as part of the annual Farm to School program awards. Together the recognized districts represent 1.3 million students and around 109 million locally-sourced school meals, according to Georgia Organics.
The Golden Radish Awards honor Georgia school districts for best practices in farm-to-school programs. Best practices include procuring local foods, exposing students to new foods through taste tests, and incorporating cooking and gardening activities into class curriculums. This year, the Golden Radish partners included Georgia Organics, UGA Extension, and Georgia’s departments of agriculture, education, public health, and early care and learning.
For more information about the Grow It Know It program, visit site.extension.uga.edu/growitknowit. For more information about the Golden Radish Awards visit, georgiaorganics.org/for-schools/goldenradish.