The Bartow County School System will be recognized for the fifth consecutive year for its efforts to incorporate locally grown food into its menus and teaching students about the source of what they eat.
Georgia Organics and other state agencies are set to award Bartow County its second Platinum-level Golden Radish award — the highest designation presented — for its farm-to-school initiatives during an event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Sept. 17, a news release stated.
Bartow County School Nutrition Director Oreal Oladele said, “This is a special award and we are elated to receive it.”
“We work hard to encourage healthy eating habits that support students’ academic success, and we intentionally look for opportunities to collaborate with teachers and administrators to bring nutrition from the garden to the cafeteria to the classroom.”
The Bartow County School System is being commended for taking unprecedented strides towards educating children on the importance of agriculture, a news release stated.
“Our goal is that these farm-to-school activities cultivate an appreciation for healthy eating and Georgia agriculture,” said Bartow County School Nutrition Coordinator Emily Miller.
Using all local produce from farms such as Southern Valley, Jaemor, Latham and Stonecreek Hydroponics, the school district conducted more than 72 taste tests during the 2018-2019 school year.
The district also saw more than 55 visits from local farmers, including an aquaponics farmer and beekeeper Tony Ross, who is also a Bartow County School Board member.
Ross visited Red Top Middle School, formerly South Central Middle School, to sample local honey and orange blossom honey from Florida.
Students had the opportunity to compare the local honey to store-bought processed honey, a news release stated.
In addition to local farmer visits, more than 100 community members were involved in farm-to-school initiatives similar to this.
Bartow County teachers integrated 41 farm-to-school lessons into the standards-based curriculum last school year. In one instance, an ESOL teacher at White Elementary incorporated farm-to-school vocabulary into English lessons while students used garden tools and harvested crops, the release stated.
“Edible gardens are another aspect of our program that we are proud of,” Miller said. “Sixteen out of 19 schools utilize raised beds, aquaponics labs, honeybee hives, trellis gardens, greenhouses, fruit trees, or herb gardens for our children.”
Through state training sessions aimed to increase the capacity of school nutrition programs, the nutrition staff assists schools in using locally grown products, like cilantro, blueberries and sweet potatoes, in daily menu items.
Superintendent Phillip Page said, “I’m happy to see this team awarded for doing the right work year after year.
“Statistics show a direct correlation between healthy diets and improved academic performance.”
The Bartow County School System is among 90 Georgia school districts to be recognized this year at the 2019 Golden Radish Awards.
Collectively, the districts served more than 2 million meals featuring local food and tended 4,646 school gardens while conducting 4,432 hands-on food and gardening activities, the release stated.