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Forsyth County Schools honored for farm-to-school programs
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Among those taking part in the Golden Radish Award ceremony in Atlanta were: from row/from left, Forsyth County Schools Associate Superintendent Joey Pirkle, Cumming Elementary School Teacher Anna Doll, Chestatee Elementary School Principal Polly Tennies, Forsyth County Schools Nutrition Director Valerie Bowers and Chestatee Elementary School Cafeteria Manager Deb Mason; and, back row/from left, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, Georgia Organics Board Chair Mandy Mahoney and Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black. - photo by For the FCN

FORSYTH COUNTY — Schools in Forsyth County are healthy and golden.

For the second year in a row, Forsyth County Schools was recognized with the Golden Radish Award, a statewide farm-to-school distinction that acknowledges outstanding leadership by school representatives who focus on building comprehensive farm-to-school programs.

The school district was recognized at the bronze level for their accomplishments during the 2014-15 school year, including:

* Students participated in 28 taste tests featuring school gardens and local farm produce.

* Four schools maintained their own gardens whose harvests were used in school lunches and student taste tests.

* Local food items were served 25 times, contributing to 125,000 individual meals featuring local apples, peaches, watermelon, onions, kale, cucumbers, peppers, squash, tomatoes and potatoes.

Last year, the district was awarded at the same level.

“The garden at Chestatee Elementary School has really been a collaborative effort, and I’m just so pleased that they have been recognized for bringing this opportunity to their students,” said Valerie Bowers, director of school nutrition for the school system.

“School gardens provide students with a hands-on learning experience that teaches them about earth sciences, animals, the weather and so much more. And because students are more willing to try foods that they have planted, nurtured and harvested, they learn about good tasting food and nutrition.”

Thirty-nine school systems were awarded at gold, silver, bronze and honorary levels to districts with varying levels of involvement.

Sharon Elementary School was the leading effort then in farm-to-school practices that directly resulted in the system-wide award.

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

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.

Districts were evaluated on their work in 10 different activities.

The award honors all aspects of farm-to-school programming – from local food procurement to hosting taste tests to gardening with students.

“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,” State Superintendent Woods said. “Farm to school also provides an opportunity for students to learn more about their role and impact of agriculture – Georgia’s largest industry – in our state.”

Collectively, the school systems:

* Held 4,352 taste tests

* Taught nearly 1,809 garden, food and nutrition lessons

* Tended 328 edible school gardens

* Hosted 725 hands-on cooking activities

* Incorporated farm to school in 182 staff professional development opportunities

* Championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 19 school districts

“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,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

“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.”