Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture, Public Health, Education and Georgia Organics came together under the prestigious Gold Dome for the annual Golden Radish Awards to celebrate incredible gains made in the farm to school movement. 53 school districts—nearly one-third of all public school districts in Georgia with a reach of over 1 million students—are now participating in farm to school programs and recognized through the Golden Radish Awards.
Tift County Schools was recognized with the Golden Radish Award at the Gold level for their accomplishments during the 2015-2016 school year, which include:
The Golden Radish Award publicly recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school, from local food procurement to hosting taste tests to gardening with students, and is awarded at Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorary Levels. Districts were evaluated on their work in ten different activities of farm to school.
“Our Farm to School program is important as it is an intricate part of our district strategic plan, district wellness policy and a measurable outcome of our Farm-to-School grants,” said Vanessa Hayes, Director of School Nutrition for Tift County Schools. “Teaching our students about different foods through Farm to School gives them exposure to fresh produce prior to introducing them to it in cafeteria, making them much more likely to try it. This program also helps them make the connection to where foods comes from and who grows it. Farm to School is also a great way to put dollars back into our local economy.”
“It is incredible to see the growth of farm to school programs in the last few years,” stated Alice Rolls, Georgia Organics Executive Director. “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 schools invest in Georgia farmers and in our children at the same time.”
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.
“Our ultimate goal here at the department is for communities to take ownership of their school cafeterias, similarly to how we all push for excellence in the classroom, the arts, and athletics,” said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. “We are proud to have so many Georgia Grown Feed My School participants recognized here today and are excited as to what current and future Golden Radish Award winners will accomplish as we work toward our 2020 Vision for School Nutrition in Georgia.”
State Superintendent Richard Woods agreed with Commissioner Black, emphasizing the benefits of connecting education to Georgia’s largest industry. “Having access to fresh, farm to school meals is great for Georgia’s students,” said Woods. “Farm to school programs also connect students with agriculture, which is an enormously important industry for our state. We appreciate the Golden Radish Award because it recognizes those school districts that are striving every day to provide more farm to school meals.”
To top it off, Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, noted the combined educational and long-term health benefits of farm to school. “Farm to school teaches our children the importance of food that helps bodies grow healthy and strong and food that promotes learning,” said Fitzgerald. “When children learn as early as possible where their food comes from, they are more likely to eat fresh, nutritious foods that will sustain healthy choices that spread to families and communities.”
Pictured are Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Tift County Schools Superintendent Patrick Atwater, Tift County School Nutrition Director Vanessa Hayes, Tift County Human Resources Director Kevin Dobard, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, and Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls.