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Of Milk and Food Hubs in Northeast Georgia

Some of the most important people in northeast Georgia met last week in Clermont.  Nutrition directors representing 10 county school systems and one city school system visited Mountain Fresh Creamery as a part of a quarterly meeting. Why are these 11 people so important? Because collectively, they are responsible for serving 88,800 children across northeast Georgia.

Abby Rowland, School Nutrition Director for the White County School District, hosted the Northeast Georgia Nutrition Directors Meeting.  They met with Mountain Fresh Creamery owner Scott Glover to learn about his product and how it might be integrated into school food service.

Scott and his wife Jennifer, started Glo-Crest Dairy in 2000 and soon built up a herd of healthy Holsteins. They opened the creamery on Highway 129 in 2011 and offer high quality milk, cream, butter, and ice cream.  Scott shared his vision and passion for producing wholesome whole milk products, and he explained the production process and offered delicious Mountain Fresh Creamery samples.

The counties represented at this meeting included Banks, Union, Habersham, Hall, Jackson, Hart, Rabun and Forsyth, along with the city of Commerce.  The nutrition directors adjourned to the White County Farm Bureau for further discussion of issues related to integrating locally produced items into the daily menus of their schools.

Dr. Debra Morris, Director of School Nutrition for the Jackson County School System, reported on one of the most exciting developments in sourcing and distributing local produce to north Georgia schools, the Northeast Georgia Food Hub.  The hub, a project of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, is scheduled to open in Rabun County in June.  It will serve all school districts that would like to use its services.  These services will include aggregating, cleaning, packaging, flash freezing and canning fruits and vegetables from local and regional growers.  It will also serve as an educational location with workstations for cafeteria staff to learn about processing and cooking fresh produce.

The nutrition directors have identified produce items that can be used in their regular food service to students and processed through the Clayton food hub.  These include but are not limited to items such as apples, blueberries, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and corn.

Nicole Trunk, System Wide Manager for Habersham County Schools, presented information on the process of local farm procurement for bulk items and taste testing.  She discussed how Habersham County has met with and received bids from local farmers to provide items such as cabbage, cucumbers and squash for two middle schools during the 2014-2015 school year.

Taste testing fruits and vegetables is a segment of the Farm to School program in Habersham County.  It involves selecting recipes and preparing items for students to taste before the foods are served on the cafeteria line.  During a taste test, students sample the item and cast a vote on whether they liked it and would try it again.  Most students find that they like the fruit or vegetable and will then enjoy the item when it is offered on the school menu.

Serving 88,800 people five days a week is a tremendous job.  The nutrition directors of northeast Georgia are committed to serving their charges not only safe and nutritious foods but appealing foods that are grown locally.  This commitment, in turn, contributes to the health and wellbeing not only of our children but also to our local economy.

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