Georgia Wins National Award for Farm-to-School Efforts, Promotion of Georgia-Grown School Meals

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) was recognized for its state promotion of farm to school across Georgia by the United States Department of Agriculture.

GaDOE, in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, created the 2020 Vision initiative, a goal to have at least 20 percent of all school-meal menus include Georgia-grown products. Additionally, the vision challenges 20 percent of Georgia schools to serve at least 50 percent Georgia-grown products out of all menu items.

“When students eat fresh, healthy, locally grown meals, they are physically ready to learn and they’re actively learning about a key sector of Georgia’s economy,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “I’m proud of the work our school nutrition division has done, with partners like the Department of Agriculture, Georgia Organics, the UGA Extension Service, the Georgia Farm Bureau, and the incredible school nutrition staff in Georgia’s schools.”

In 2015-2016 alone, Georgia schools served 39 million school meals that included fresh, local produce, held a total of 8,246 taste tests and students received 3,406 garden and nutrition lessons. Of those school gardens tended, 575 of them were edible.

“It is wonderful that so many of our local school system nutrition directors are utilizing our Farm-to-School Toolkit and are involved in farm-to-school activities,” GaDOE School Nutrition Director Nancy Rice said. “In conjunction with Career, Technical, & Agricultural Education, the directors are collaborating with teachers and 4H clubs designing and growing school gardens for student learning. They also work beautifully with school culinary programs to develop and test recipes. The directors are working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Organics to increase farm-to-school connections supporting our wonderful Georgia farmers. With the help of UGA’s Extension Service and Georgia Farm Bureau they are implementing more ‘Ag in the Classroom’. All this helps educate the whole child – that is, after all, our primary goal.”

These Georgia school systems also received USDA Best Practice Awards:

  • Burke County Schools is recognized for their Farmer’s Market in Waynesboro, Ga. The weekly market serves over 50 families.
  • Burke County Schools is also recognized for Promoting a Healthy School Environment in the Small SFA Category. The school system won this award for their cooking demonstration program, “Charlie Cart.” The cart is stocked with tools, equipment, and a lesson plan book. Students are exposed to lessons that emphasize nutrition and cooking, but also integrate math, English, science, and social studies.
  • Gainesville City Schools received recognition for their farm-to-school program. The school system developed a calendar to showcase a Georgia-grown product each month and showcasing it on the menu at all school locations.
  • Rabun County Schools received recognition for their efforts to increase School Breakfast participation. Each morning students can participate in “Breakfast at Break,” which allows time for a quick, pre-wrapped breakfast between classes.

Other Georgia school systems received Best Practice Awards for the Southeast Region. Those winners were recognized at the Georgia School Nutrition Association (GSNA) Fall SY 2018 Kick-Off Luncheon on Sept. 21 in Macon. A panel judged nominees on sustained excellence, innovation, impact, cost effectiveness and efficiency, transferability, and presentation.

The Southeast Region award winners are:

Increasing Participation in School Lunch, School Breakfast, or After School Snacks
Barrow County, Commerce City, Putnam County, Rabun County, Richmond County, and Rockdale County

Promoting a Healthy School Environment (Wellness Programs)
Atlanta Public Schools, Burke County, Dawson County, Gainesville City, Hall County, Newton County, and Savannah-Chatham County

Use of Social Marketing for School Nutrition Programs
Bartow County, Carrollton City, Cherokee County, Douglas County, Forsyth County, Gwinnett County, Jackson County, Richmond County, and Tift County

Customer Service/Working Smarter, Not Harder
Atlanta Public Schools, Gwinnett County, Hall County, and Thomaston-Upson County

Creative Utilization of Commodities
Treutlen County

Farm-to-School Programs
Barrow County, Bartow County, Burke County, Carrollton City, Cherokee County, Elbert County, Gainesville City, Jackson County, Laurens County, Paulding County, and Warren County

Leadership Development and Training to Achieve Professional Standards
Baldwin County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Griffin-Spalding County, Paulding County, and Valdosta City

Fiscal Management Innovations for Improving Plate Costs
Butts County, Douglas County, Griffin-Spalding County, Houston County, Polk County, and Rabun County

Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Outreach
Brantley County, Carroll County, Floyd County, and Fulton County


Meghan Frick
GaDOE Director of Communications