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Newton County School System (NCSS) was recognized with the Golden Radish Award, a prestigious state-wide farm to school distinction which acknowledges the outstanding leadership of school representatives building comprehensive farm to school programs.

The school district was recognized for its efforts to educate students on nutrition and agriculture by State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and Georgia Organics Board Chair Mandy Mahoney.

Newton County Schools was recognized at the Bronze level for their accomplishments during the last school year, which include:

●     The NCSS School Nutrition Program features a locally grown produce month, as well as additional local items on salads each day.

●      Six edible gardens are in the district, including one outdoor STEM lab garden at an elementary school where each grade level has two raised beds and are taught garden lessons on a weekly basis.

●      Schools offered almost 50 cooking and food activities this school year, with several schools focusing on hands-on cooking classes during the after-school program. Alcovy High features cooking classes using vegetables harvested from the school garden.

“The School Nutrition Program staff is continually looking for ways to grow our Farm to School Program, to provide nutrition education, and collaborate with teachers and students in their school gardens,” said Jan Loomans, NCSS Director of Operations. “This is the third year Newton County School System has received the Golden Radish recognition.

School districts across Georgia are using farm to school programs to teach core curriculum, support their local economies, fight obesity and other preventable, food-related diseases, and increase the amount of local food they serve to their students. 

The 2015 Golden Radish Award recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school during the 2014-2015 school year—from local food procurement to hosting taste tests to gardening with students—and is awarded at Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorary Levels to districts with varying levels of farm to school programs.

Richard Woods, Georgia’s School Superintendent states, “Eating fresh, locally sourced food at school is great for our students. When kids are healthy and energized, they’re ready to tackle their academic tasks. Farm to School also provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the role and impact of agriculture – Georgia’s largest industry – in our state.”

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black couldn’t agree more. “Our programs, like Feed My School for a Week and the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen, inspire students to expand their taste buds and connect with the farmers who support the state of Georgia. We are thrilled to participate in the Golden Radish Awards and to assist in creating markets for farmers that also benefit our children’s health and education.”

“Having access to locally grown fruits and vegetables is so important for teaching children healthy eating habits now,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Poor nutrition can cause health problems, overweight and obesity, and inhibit healthy brain development, including the ability to acquire language and literacy. The habits children pick up at this age will lead to healthy physical, emotional and intellectual outcomes that they will carry into adolescence and adulthood.”

“It is incredible to see the growth of farm to school programs in the last few years,” stated Mandy Mahoney, Georgia Organics Board Chair.  “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 school and agricultural leaders invest in these programs and in our children.”

Districts were evaluated on their work in ten different activities of farm to school.