ATLANTA— One of the most successful tactics to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables is to have them plant, grow, and harvest food with their own hands in a garden, which is one of the core components of a farm to school program.
Now, farm to school in Georgia is set to get a big boost.
National service organization FoodCorps, which connects children in underserved communities to real food in order to help them grow up healthy, expands to Georgia next month, where they’ll partner with Georgia Organics.
Over the next year, more then 15,000 students will have opportunities to grow and eat fresh, delicious food and learn more about farms and farming. Georgia Organics will serve as the state’s Host Site, and three partner organizations serve as FoodCorps Service Sites: Captain Planet Foundation, Athens Land Trust, and the Northeast Georgia Farm to School Program (Georgia Organics’ pilot program).
“We’re thrilled to grow farm to school in Georgia with FoodCorps,” said Georgia Organics Farm to School Director Erin Croom. “Their great work has reconnected over 100,000 children across the country with healthy, fresh food, and with exceptional partners like the Captain Planet Foundation, Athens Land Trust, and Northeast Georgia Farm to School Program, we can’t wait to impact kids right here in our own state.”
Nearly one million Georgia children are overweight or obese. While 43 percent of Georgia teenagers eat less than one vegetable a day,the state is the fourth-largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the nation. The need for food education and access to clean, healthy food in Georgia is great, but so is the opportunity for change. Healthy students are better learners who perform better academically, so farm to school programs are critical to support a growing workforce and healthier population.
FoodCorps places emerging leaders into limited-resource schools for a year of AmeriCorps service during which they implement their three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids: facilitating local food purchasing, gardening and cooking with kids, and teaching about food and nutrition. Two hundred new service members will be placed in host agencies and schools across 16 states and the District of Columbia this year.
“What we feed our children in school––and what we teach them about food there––shapes their health and success over a lifetime,” said Curt Ellis, FoodCorps co-founder and Chief Executive Officer.
Since 2007, Farm to School programs in Georgia have been rapidly expanding, and FoodCorps brings more boots on the ground to provide the much-needed technical assistance to teachers, school cafeteria staffs, volunteers and community organizations that are leading these efforts. Each year since its inception, FoodCorps has expanded its reach and grown its ranks.
Georgia Organics has a longstanding track record with farm to school in Georgia—they established the state’s first farm to school program seven years ago, and serve as the lead agency for the National Farm to School network. The organization also established the Georgia Farm to School Alliance and hosted the state’s first-ever Farm to School Summit.
Georgia Organics’ other farm to school efforts include the 5 Million Meals Campaign and the state’s premiere farm to school award, the Golden Radish. Farm to school staff also routinely host trainings for teachers and school nutrition staff across the state.