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News

October 25, 2016

(L-R): Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald; State School Superintendent Richard Woods;
NCSS Director of School Nutrition, Jan Loomans; NCSS School Nutrition Wellness Coordinator, Susan Stone; NCSS Paraprofessional, Sarah Nichols; Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black;
and Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls.


For the fourth consecutive year, Newton County School System (NCSS) has earned a 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. 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.

NCSS was among those school systems recognized at a special ceremony on Monday, October 24, at the Gold Dome in Atlanta, for the district’s efforts to educate students on nutrition and agriculture. State School Superintendent Richard Woods; Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black; Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald; and Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls attended the awards ceremony.

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. 

NCSS was recognized at the silver level for several accomplishments during the 2015-2016 school year, including:

●       Local produce was featured daily on the school lunch menu totaling approximately 750,000 meals with locally grown food. Students enjoyed locally grown bell peppers and tomatoes on salads throughout the year in addition to monthly highlighted local items, such as blueberries and butternut squash.

●       Students learned curriculum standards through farm to school oriented lessons 80 times, including high school agriculture students learning seasonality through locally grown produce and Fairview Elementary students plating cabbage to prepare coleslaw for a science lesson.

●       Students visited Mitcham Farms in Covington on a field trip to learn about and taste strawberries. Mitcham Farms’ strawberries were also served in the school cafeterias.

“Our schools system’s involvement with the farm to school movement goes beyond serving locally grown fruits and vegetables, which we are proudly doing on a regular basis,” said Jan Loomans, NCSS Director of School Nutrition.  “We also have a strong relationship with our local health department as well as the Farm Bureau to help ensure that students make the connection between nutritious foods in the cafeteria, healthy bodies, and a sustainable environment.”

“Congratulations to our school nutrition team,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey. “I am proud of their hard work and effort to ensure our students enjoy locally grown fruit and vegetables while learning the importance of healthy food options!” 

“It is incredible to see the growth of farm to school programs in the last few years,” said 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.”

During the 2015-2016 school year, school districts collectively:

  •         Served 39 million school meals that included local food
  •        Held 8,246 taste tests of fresh, local food to students
  •         Taught 3,406 garden, food and nutrition lessons to students
  •         Tended 575 edible school gardens
  •         Hosted 1,935 hands-on cooking activities with students
  •         Incorporated farm to school into 390 staff professional development opportunities
  •         Championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 29 schools districts

For more information on the Newton County School System’s Golden Radish Award, contact Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of public relations for Newton County School System at davis-viniard.sherri@newton.k12.ga.us.

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