Atlanta Public Schools was recognized on March 5, 2013, at the state capitol for their participation in the 5 Million Meals campaign, a statewide effort to get more local food in schools. Marilyn Hughes, Director of Nutrition for APS, pledged to support her local economy and local farmers by increasing the amount of local food served to her students through farm to school programs.
State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, and Georgia Organics Board President Rashid Nuri honored these Georgia school districts for taking the “5 Million Meals Challenge” and pledging to serve more local food in their cafeterias.
In 2011, thanks to the hard work of dozens of Farm to School advocates, 3 million meals featuring locally produced food were served in more than 650 Georgia schools as part of a program to teach children where their food comes from, why that matters, and inspire them to eat more fruits and vegetables.
In October 2012, Georgia Organics and its partners launched the 5 Million Meals Challenge, a statewide effort to get 5 million meals made with locally grown food served in K-12 cafeterias across Georgia.
During the ceremony at the capitol, Dr. Barge and Commissioner Black presented the schools and school systems that have taken the 5 Million Meals pledge with “The Golden Radish Award.” The school districts were also honored with resolutions in the state Senate and House of Representatives.
“Children learn better when their bodies and minds are fueled by nutritional meals. This program helps create a better school environment so that students can reach new heights academically,” said Dr. Barge. “It also helps us expose children to science through agriculture. We must teach our children about an industry that is so critical to Georgia’s economy in order to inspire the next generation of farmers and agricultural scientists.”
“With great programs such as the Five Million Meals Challenge and Feed My School for week, students will discover the importance of agriculture through learning about the process that brings local produce and goods from an area farm to the cafeteria table, while at the same time receiving a healthy, delicious meal,” said Commissioner Gary W. Black. “These programs not only allow children more healthy alternatives and promote local producers, but also bring communities together for a great cause.”
The Centers for Disease Control has identified Farm to School as a key strategy in addressing childhood obesity, but scientists and policymakers are not the only supporters of farm to school – these programs are being implemented on the ground by thousands of people in Georgia.
School gardens are the fun and public “face” of Farm to School, but there’s much more to it than that. Thriving Farm to School programs feature teachers who incorporate growing food into the curriculum, and parents who volunteer an hour or two to help weed that school garden. Farm to School also involves chefs from the community who conduct taste tests with students and farmers, connecting directly with the schools by hosting farm tours or making guest appearances on days when their food will be featured in the cafeteria.
Most importantly, the program causes the nutrition staff – the dedicated workers planning and preparing the cafeteria food – to take the extra time to plan and prepare healthy, local food that students love to eat.