On a cloudy Friday afternoon, students at Wilbanks Middle School in Demorest taste-tested turnips as part of a math project. You read that right—math. The taste test was part of Habersham County’s farm to school program, of course, and part of it included students voting on whether they thought the raw turnips grown by Chuck and Amy Mashburn of Mill Gap Farm in Tiger, and the turnip and carrot gratin prepared by chef Lindsey Payne were “Yummy,” “Just OK,” or “No Thanks.” (Georgia Organics staff opinion: Yummy all the way!)
WMS math teacher Dawn Burrell will incorporate the data from students’ votes into a lesson about percentages, ratios, and scatter plots.
Later that afternoon, Chef Lindsey taught WMS cafeteria staff how to make the carrot/turnip gratin, taking time to go over ways to make the recipe more friendly to a cafeteria kitchen. She and the staff also chatted about potential recipes for the featured vegetables each month in the upcoming school year. (Turns out Pinterest is as addictive a way to peruse recipes for the professionals as it is for the rest of us!)
Chef Lindsey had a list of potential recipes based on what seasonal ingredients would be featured in the months of the upcoming school year, and the braintrust spent the afternoon gauging which were feasible, and which the students would be most likely to enjoy. “We need your input because you’re the experts in school cafeterias,” said Teri Hamlin, who’s leading the pilot project.
Local corn meal from Sylvan Falls Mill, for instance, could go in cornbread, but cafeteria staff thought a cornbread muffin stuffed with chili might be a bigger hit. The six women poring over recipes in that kitchen are models for the state— by taking the extra time to brainstorm these recipes, their menu will feature local, fresh ingredients that their students will love.
The farm to school pilot program in Habersham County is a collaboration between Georgia Organics and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, and we hope this program can serve as a model for districts all over the state. This program include building school gardens, taste tests of local produce, training workshops for cafeteria staff and teachers, and working with local farmers on solutions to some of local agriculture’s biggest challenges—distribution and seasonality.