The Newton County School System was one of 25 Georgia school districts to be recognized with “The Golden Radish Award” for taking Georgia Organics’ “5 Million Meals” pledge.
During a ceremony on Tuesday held at the state Capitol, State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black presented the awards to school nutrition departments who have pledged to include more locally grown produce on their school breakfast and lunch menus.
According to Georgia Organics, three million meals which included locally grown produce were served to students in K-12 schools last school year.
This year, the organization developed a campaign, the “5 Million Meals Challenge,” to increase that number to five million meals. Georgia Organics notes that the benefits of serving locally grown produce include providing access and opportunities for students to enjoy fresh, local produce, while also supporting local Georgia farmers and boosting the local economy.
The NCSS School Nutrition Department has offered students locally grown green bell peppers and cucumbers as part of their entrée salads. Students have also enjoyed local apple varieties such as Pink LadyTM apples grown in Mercier Orchards, a north Georgia farm located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When local produce is offered on the menu, point-of-sale signage is displayed on the cafeteria serving lines for students to view interesting facts and nutrition information about the locally grown item.
The NCSS School Nutrition Department plans to continue to expand its offerings of locally grown produce to students.
Currently, the department is working with a local Newton County farmer to obtain fresh, local strawberries for students to enjoy this spring.
Brittany Bingeman, SNP Wellness Coordinator for the Newton County School System said the school nutrition staff is always looking for ways to introduce new foods to students.
“By promoting fruits and vegetables grown in Georgia and Newton County, not only are we able to provide different food for the students, we also have a role in educating them about Georgia agriculture,” she said.
The department hopes that offering local produce and educating students about it will encourage students to eat fruits and vegetables that they may otherwise be reluctant to try.