The Muscogee County School District is among the 75 districts out of 181 in Georgia to win a Golden Radish Award for farm-to-school accomplishments last school year.
The awards are presented by the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Department of Public Health, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and Georgia Organics, a nonprofit organization connecting organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families.
The criteria for the awards depend on the size of the school district. To receive the 2017 award, districts with 51 or more schools, such as MCSD, had to meet at least seven of these 10 criteria during the 2016-17 school year, according to GeorgiaOrganics.org:
▪ Feature locally grown items on the school menu during breakfast or lunch at least eight times for Bronze Level, at least 30 times for Silver Level and at least 50 times for Gold Level.
▪ Students participate in taste tests that feature locally grown food at least eight times for Bronze Level, at least 16 times for Silver Level and at least 30 times for Gold Level.
▪ Students interact with farmers through field trips to farms that grow food or through farmer visits to school at least six times for Bronze Level, at least 12 times for Silver Level and at least 20 times for Gold Level.
▪ Farm-to-school promotions are done throughout the school environment at least 10 times for Bronze Level, at least 20 times for Silver Level and at least 30 times for Gold Level.
▪ Teachers integrate farm-to-school lessons into standards-based curriculum at least 16 times for Bronze Level, at least 30 times for Silver Level and at least 50 times for Gold Level.
▪ Edible gardens are in at least 10 percent of schools for Bronze Level, in at least 25 percent of schools for Silver Level and in at least 75 percent of schools for Gold Level.
▪ Students participate in hands-on cooking and food activities with chefs, teachers, parents, school nutrition staff or other leaders at least 16 times for Bronze Level, at least 30 times for Silver Level and at least 50 times for Gold Level.
▪ Parents or other community members are involved in farm-to-school activities at least 10 times for Bronze Level, at least 20 times for Silver Level and at least 30 times for Gold Level.
▪ Farm-to-school professional development training is conducted for school staff at least twice for Bronze Level, at least eight times for Silver Level and at least 12 times for Gold Level.
▪ Farm-to-school language is adopted into a district-wide policy or procedure in at least one area of the school environment for Bronze Level, at least two areas of the school environment for Silver Level and throughout the school environment for Gold Level.
School districts that met the Gold Level of all 10 criteria reached the Platinum Level. School districts that met one to six criteria at the Bronze Level earned Honorable Mention, which MCSD received last year.
This year, nine school districts are on the Platinum Level, 20 school districts are on the Gold Level, nine school districts are on the Silver Level, 17 school districts are on the Bronze Level and 20 schools received Honorable Mention.
So this year’s 75 recipients amount to 41 percent of the school districts in Georgia achieve some level of farm-to-school success, tripling the number from four years ago, when 25 school districts (14 percent) were honored. Harris County was among that group in 2013, but MCSD is the only Columbus area school district included in 2017.
Highlights of MCSD’s farm-to-school accomplishments in the 2016-17 school year listed by GeorgiaOrganics.org are:
- Georgia Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee members visited Downtown Elementary Magnet Academy kindergarten students to read the book, “First Peas to the Table,” and plant pea seeds.
- The School Nutrition Department selected a farm-to-school featured item for the school menu. Students had pole beans in August, sweet potatoes in October and strawberries in April.
- In the weeks leading up to Feed My School for a Week, the district hosted a T-shirt design contest, essay contest and pecan butter taste test. Feed My School for a Week included an Agricultural Literacy Day, Thank a Farmer Day and Ag Day. Students met some of the farmers who grew their lunch.
MCSD school nutrition director Susan Schlader told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Wednesday, “We were very excited when we received word that we would be awarded the Bronze Golden Radish Award this year. Knowing that we have moved from Honorary to Bronze has inspired us to reach for Silver this year.”
The 2017 Golden Radish Award winners were celebrated Monday during an awards ceremony at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta.
Georgia Organics said in its news release, “These programs teach students about food and agriculture through hands-on food and garden education, supporting the local economy through local food purchases for school meals, and fighting childhood obesity and other preventable, food-related diseases.”