Georgia’s agriculture, education and public health departments, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and Georgia Organics came together at the historic Georgia Railroad Freight Depot to celebrate Georgia school districts with outstanding farm-to-school programs. Seventy-five school districts, serving more than one million students, are now participating in farm-to-school programs. These districts served more than 97 million school meals with local food items during the 2016-17 school year.
The Golden Radish Award publicly recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school, including procuring local food, 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,” said Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson. “This is a natural partnership that benefits us as well as the school kids who get to enjoy these tasty and nutritious products."
Agriculture and Natural Resources and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agents, along with Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, work with teachers, parents, administrators and students across the state to build and maintain school gardens and farm-to-school programs. This year, Extension faculty helped review applications for Georgia Organics' 4-year-old Golden Radish Awards program and co-sponsored the ceremony.
Districts of all sizes are using 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,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “When children eat fresh, healthy meals, they have the fuel they need for a successful day of learning.”
Agriculture Commissioner of Georgia Gary W. Black notes 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 Plan for School Nutrition in Georgia.”
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal also champions healthy food access for children and supports farm-to-school efforts. “The vitamins, minerals and health benefits from local fresh fruit and vegetables not only allow our children to be physically healthy, but research has shown that healthy eating is also key to brain development,” said Commissioner O’Neal. “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,” stated Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. “This is an exciting trajectory given farm to school’s impact on child nutrition, farmer prosperity, rural development, local economies and public health.”
During the 2016-17 school year, Golden Radish school districts collectively:
- Served over 97 million meals that featured locally grown and raised foods.
- Conducted 8,204 taste tests.
- Taught 7,263 standards-based lessons.
- Tended 885 school gardens.
- Engaged students in 3,794 hands-on cooking activities.
- Involved parents and community members in 1,339 farm-to-school activities.
The 2016-17 school year was a record-breaking year of farm-to-school growth in Georgia, and participants were thrilled to celebrate at the Golden Radish Awards.
The 75 school systems being recognized are:
- Barrow County School System
- Carrollton City Schools
- Cherokee County School District
- Clarke County School District
- Fulton County Schools
- Jackson County Schools
- Laurens County Schools
- Sumter County Schools
- Tift County Schools
- Atlanta Public Schools
- Baldwin County School District
- Bartow County School System
- Bleckley County Schools
- Burke County Public Schools
- City Schools of Decatur
- Cobb County School District
- Columbia County School Nutrition
- Dougherty County School System
- Effingham County School System
- Elbert County School District
- Fannin County School System
- Fayette County Public Schools
- Gwinnett County Public Schools
- Habersham County Schools
- Hart County Schools
- Treutlen County Schools
- Henry County Schools
- Newton County Schools
- Warren County Public Schools
- Crawford County Schools
- DeKalb County School District
- Floyd County Schools
- Forsyth County Schools
- Gainesville City School System
- Madison County School District
- Paulding County School District
- Savannah-Chatham County Public School System
- Toombs County Schools
- Buford City Schools
- Carroll County Schools
- Coffee County School System
- Dade County Schools
- Dalton Public Schools
- Douglas County School System
- Lee County School System
- Marietta City Schools
- Mitchell County Schools
- Morgan County Charter School System
- Murray County Schools
- Muscogee County School District
- Richmond County
Valdosta City Nutrition Program
- White County
Worth County School District
- Banks County School System
- Butts County School System
- Calhoun City School System
- Clayton County Public Schools
- Dawson County School System
- Emanuel County School System
- Franklin County Schools
- Glascock County School System
- Haralson County Schools
- Hall County Schools
- Johnson County
- Lincoln County School District
- Lowndes County Honorary
- Lumpkin County School System
- Miller County Board of Education
- McIntosh County Schools
- Rockdale County Public Schools
- Stephens County
- Whitfield County Schools
- Wilkinson County Board of Education