“Feed My School for a Week” is a program of the Georgia Department of Agriculture in which, for one week, 75-100 percent of the food served in a school’s cafeteria is Georgia Grown. Eight schools across the state participated this year, and the program will expand to five additional schools next year. The program increases awareness about the importance of proper nutrition and healthy eating, while assisting schools in sourcing local products.
“We take ownership of athletics. We take ownership of academics. We take ownership of the arts. We should take ownership of nutrition, too,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told students and parents in April, during a celebration at Sharon Elementary School in Forsyth County on the last day of that school’s “Week.” “That’s why it’s called Feed MY School.”
“As a director, it makes you aware of what local products you’re already buying,” says Misty Friedman, the coordinator of the Feed My School program, and former nutrition director of Madison County School District, who participated in the program for the first time this year. “You focus on produce a lot, but when you start looking at protein, there’s really a lot of Georgia Grown that you can use, too.”
Last fall, while Friedman was still the nutrition director in Madison County, 100 percent of the food served for breakfast and lunch for a week at Colbert Elementary School was from just 14 Georgia counties. Additionally, ALL the produce served in the district’s other six schools was the same Georgia Grown goodness that Colbert was enjoying. “I learned a lot from it,” she says.
Valerie Bowers, Nutrition Director of Sharon Elementary’s Forsyth County, agrees that the program was a great way to dive into farm to school. “The best thing has been the relationships we’ve made with different farms and learning how we can work together,” she says.
Skyview Elementary School in Bibb County also participated in the program, and over 90 percent of the items served during the week came from a Georgia source. Dr. Cleta Long, the district’s Nutrition Director, says that her favorite thing was “seeing the students make the connection that some of the food they were eating was grown on a farm less than five miles from the school.”
Skyview also served several items that were grown in the school garden, and Dr. Long says, “to witness the pride and accomplishment displayed” by the students who grew that food was “absolutely breathtaking.” Skyview also hosted a Georgia Grown Parade with classes representing farmers, veggies, the grain group, the meat group, and even fruit ninjas!
This summer, Friedman, who joined the Dept. of Ag in February, will work with the nutrition directors of all 13 Feed My School districts to share ideas and pull everything together so that those doing the program for the first time can learn from those who have done it before. As Feed My School for a Week grows, more and more schools will see the impacts that Dr. Long has seen in Bibb County: “Our students are eating and enjoying these items and learning the connection between what they are eating and the importance of agriculture and their environment.”