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NCSS earns fourth consecutive Golden Radish Award
Golden Radish
Pictured, from left, Sarah Nichols, Jan Loomans, Deborah Colbert and Susan Stone.

COVINGTON, Ga. - For the fourth consecutive year, Newton County School System 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. 

Seventy-five school districts, serving more than one million students in Georgia, are now participating in farm to school.  These districts served more than 97 million school meals with local food items during the 2016-17 school year. 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. 

NCSS was among those school systems recognized at a special ceremony on Monday, October 30, at the Freight Depot 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. J. Patrick O’Neal; 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 Platinum, 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 Gold level for several accomplishments during the 2016-2017 school year, including:

  • Students interacted with local farmers 70 times, including through field trips to Berry’s Farm and Mitcham Farms and farmers from Burge Organic Farm visiting Mansfield Elementary.
  • Spinach grown in the Mansfield Elementary school garden was used for a spinach and romaine salad school-wide taste test for as a Leaf it to Spinach October Farm to School Month promotion.
  • Students participated in more than 190 hands-on cooking and food activities. Parents assisted teachers in activities such as learning about the different plant parts and getting to taste examples of stems, roots, flowers, leaves, and fruits. 

“Our school 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,” Jan Loomans, NCSS director of school nutrition, said.  “We also have a strong relationship with our local 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,” NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said. “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!” 

“Access to fresh, locally grown food is not just important for students’ physical health – it’s part of their academic development as well,” Woods said. “When children eat fresh, healthy meals, they have the fuel they need for a successful day of learning.”

Black noted that while farm to school efforts support academic achievement, they also help build a strong agricultural economy. “Feed My School for a Week”, Georgia Grown Test Kitchen and the Golden Radish Awards are all great ways for school nutrition to support Georgia producers, and we are excited as to what current and future award winners will accomplish as we work toward our 2020 Vision for School Nutrition in Georgia.”

O’Neal champions healthy food access for children and supports farm to school efforts. 

“The vitamins, minerals and health benefits from local fresh fruit and vegetables, not only allow our children to be physically healthy, but research has shown that healthy eating is also key to brain development,” O’Neal said. “Here in Georgia, we are leading the nation in identifying ways to increase early brain development, and healthy nutrition is an enormous part of that.”

Georgia Organics founded the state’s first farm to school program in 2007. Since then, communities across the state have embraced the benefits of bringing students and fresh, local food closer together.  “It’s astounding that over 40 percent of our school districts are actively involved in The Golden Radish Awards after only four years of establishing the program,” Rolls said. “This is an exciting trajectory given farm to school’s impact on child nutrition, farmer prosperity, rural development, local economies and public health.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, Golden Radish school districts collectively:

  • Served over 97 million meals that featured locally grown and raised foods
  • Conducted 8,204 taste tests
  • Taught 7,263 standards based lessons
  • Tended 885 school gardens
  • Engaged students in 3,794 hands on cooking activities
  • Involved parents and community members in 1,339 farm to school activities

The 2016-17 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.