By Abbie King
The Bibb County School District won the bronze recognition at the 2018 Golden Radish Awards held at the Georgia Freight Depot. The Golden Radish Award publicly recognizes Georgia school districts for exhibiting best practices in farm to school programs, such as local food procurement, exposing students to new foods through taste tests and incorporating gardening and cooking activities in the curriculum during the 2017-2018 academic year.
Bibb County School District received kudos for their work in bringing numerous nutrition projects to fruition. The School Nutrition Department and educators led a “Day of Planting” for special education students. Students worked in teams to plant tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, and herbs in the school garden while exploring nature and making scientific observations.
“School gardens introduce new generations to the world of agriculture,” explained Dr. Laura Perry Johnson, “They build a broader understanding of where our food comes from and what it takes to get it to the table, and they prepare future farmers to produce food innovatively, in ways that maximize resources and nurture our environment.” She is the Associate Dean for UGA Extension at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Additionally, Jenn and Gary Wilson of AF Farms helped the District with managing hydroponic gardens, creating curriculum-based activities for teachers, leading taste tests, and supplying local food for school meals.
Finally, During National Milk Day, students learned about dairy farming and nutrition while tasting varieties of milk from Mayfield Dairy. Southeast Region USDA Representatives read an agriculturally themed book to students and assisted with dairy themed crafts.
Bibb County School District was one of 84 Georgia school districts recognized at the awards. Collectively, these districts served more than 1.3 million students a whopping 109 million school meals with locally grown food items during the 2017-18 school year!
This year, the Golden Radish partners included Georgia Organics, Georgia’s Department of Agriculture (GDA), Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH), the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension (UGA Extension). The collective awarded 17 new school districts and inaugurated five new Farm to School Innovation awards.
“At the Georgia Department of Education we’re focused on expanding opportunities for Georgia’s kids, and farm to school is a perfect example of that,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “When students have access to fresh, local foods they’re better prepared to learn – and they can connect with Georgia agriculture, one of our state’s largest industries.”
Georgia Organics presented an Organic Radish Award to Warren County Public Schools for including certified organic food in the meals program and teaching organic growing practices to students.
GaDOE presented an award to farmer Lisa Dojan of Fisheads Aquaponics for her exemplary work with Georgia students.
DPH presented an “Innovative Partnership” award to Clarke County School District for their partnerships and programs with local restaurants, Americorps, UGA “Grow It, Know It” and UGA Extension, local farmers, and the local food bank.
GDA presented a “Georgia Grown” award to teacher Diana Cole from Barrow County.
UGA Extension presented the Outstanding Extension Farm to School Program Award to Warren County Public School to recognize the comprehensive school garden plan, complete with harvest parade and-3 acre production garden, a model for our state.
Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) presented the inaugural Baby Golden Radish Award to the Bleckley County School District for creating an innovative and exemplary Farm to Early Care and Education Program that advances the learning and development of its Pre-K and Head Start students.
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black summarized the success of the programs recognized by the Golden Radish Awards: “Feed My School For a Week, Georgia Grown Test Kitchen, and the Golden Radish Awards are all great examples of success thanks to the strong partnership that has been cultivated between our Georgia producers and our school nutrition directors. We are proud of the accomplishments of Georgia’s farm to school efforts and excited to see what current and future award winners will further achieve as we work toward our 2020 Vision for School Nutrition in Georgia.”
The 2017-18 school year was a record-breaking year of farm to school growth in Georgia, and all participants were thrilled to celebrate at the Golden Radish Awards.