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Forsyth County Schools receives third consecutive farm to table program award
golden-radish WEB
Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Cumming Elementary School Teacher Anna Doll, Cumming Elementary School Principal Lee Anne Rice, School Nutrition Manager Marcia Outler, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, and Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

The farm to school program running in cafeterias, gardens and classrooms throughout public schools in Forsyth County was recognized for its efforts. Again.

Forsyth County Schools was one of 53 school districts honored with a Golden Radish Award Monday by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia Organics.

Those school districts honored represent about one-third of all public school systems in Georgia whose farm to school programs reach more than 1 million students.

Valerie Bowers, director of the School Nutrition Program for Forsyth County Schools, said this is the third year in a row the district has been awarded a Golden Radish.

“This is a county-wide award that highlights the efforts made by Cumming Elementary’s cafeteria staff and school garden leaders,” Bowers said. “Because of the wonderful things going on at the Cumming garden, we received a silver level award this year.”

This is the highest level the district has ever been awarded after being honored with the bronze level for the past two years.

Sharon and Chestatee elementary schools have led efforts for the district and subsequent awards in the past.

The silver level, which is connected to the 2015-2016 school year, recognizes programs that include:

• Featuring locally grown food produced from an elementary school garden on menus 161 times

• Maintaining 10 school gardens that are kept up by students and are connected to farm to school lessons, taste tests and more by parents and volunteers

• Conducting 29 taste tests centered on items growing in school gardens, such as bok choy and asparagus

Districts were evaluated on their work in 10 activities of farm to school, including taste tests, gardening practices and food procurement processes and were awarded at the gold, silver, bronze and honorary levels.

Collectively, school districts in Georgia:

• 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 school districts

“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.”

The award honors districts of all sizes for using the program to teach academic standards, support the local economy through purchasing food for school meals and fighting childhood obesity and other preventable food-related diseases.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods said the benefits of connecting education to Georgia’ largest industry go both ways.

“Farm to school programs also connect students with agriculture,” Woods said, “which is an enormously important industry for our state.”