MILLEDGEVILLE — Baldwin County public school students are continuing to learn about science, agriculture and engineering and career opportunities available within the industry while Oak Hill Middle School students receive useful tips from area farmers to help sustain their very own school garden since harvesting began in 2011. These are few of the ways the local school system is supporting the local and state economy and increasing locally-grown foods served to students through the Farm to School program.
“It’s not just about getting Georgia-grown food into the cafeteria, but it’s also getting farmers into the school system, so it’s educational just as it is nutritional. We have a wonderful school garden at Oak Hill and we’re starting one at Eagle Ridge Elementary School soon. The students are learning where foods come from,” said Jeanne Starr, director of school nutrition and food services for the Baldwin County Board of Education. “The Farm to School program also supports local farmers and students learn about the many careers in the field of agriculture; there’s more than just farming.”
State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and Georgia Organics Board President Rashid Nuri honored Baldwin County schools, along with 24 other Georgia school districts, for taking the “5 Million Meals Challenge” and pledging to serve more local food in their cafeterias. At a ceremony at the state capitol last week, school systems received “The Golden Radish Award.”
“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 Barge via press release. “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.”
According to the press release, 3 million meals featuring locally produced food were served in more than 650 Georgia schools in 2011 as part of the “5 Million Meals Challenge” to teach children where their food comes from and why that matters, and inspire them to eat more fruits and vegetables. Starr signed the “5 Million Meals Challenge” pledge last year and has since continually tried to find Georgia farmers to provide fresh produce to Baldwin County students.
“In south and north Georgia, there are farmers all over the place. In Baldwin County, it’s tough here because we don’t have local farmers. I have to research and pull from other counties. I plan to concentrate on one supplier to provide a vegetable for one school. Right now we have carrots coming in from Dexter Farms, which is a Georgia-grown product,” Starr said. “From July to now, we’ve served close to 700,000 meals for lunch alone in our schools. With Farm to School, it’s not just about produce; we can also look at poultry, beef and pork. The meat is hormone-free and grass-fed; I would love to get that in our schools.”
For more information about the Farms to School program, visit www.georgiaorganics.org.
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