Establishing a connection between farm and school is fundamental to keep children healthy and to teach them where their food comes from. Misty Friedman is a long time supporter of showing children the importance of eating healthier, of food origins, and of how food habits impact the environment and the community.
Friedman is the School Nutrition Coordinator at the Georgia Department of Agriculture and coordinator of Feed My School for a Week program. The program aims to raise student’s awareness about food and nutrition and approach local farmers to cafeterias. She is also involved with the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen that is a program from the Department of Agriculture that is dedicated to promoting local and healthy eating in Georgia schools by offering healthy recipes using local products to school nutrition directors. Both Feed My School for a Week and Georgia Grown Test Kitchen to give school children access to more nutritional foods, facilitate the adoption of healthier and local recipes in school cafeterias, and raise awareness about food and agriculture among school children.
Friedman will lead a session called “Farm to School Menus” at the Georgia Farm to School & Preschool Summit that will be held on Feb. 19-20 at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga. We talked to her about the Feed My School for a Week program, successful stories, and the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen. Click here to register for our summit!
What will you talk about at our Farm to School Summit? In the session that I am leading, we are going to be talking about a menu following the USDA meal pattern using Georgia commodities. We are also going to be talking about recipes from the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen. We will be sharing menus from the Feed My School for a Week Program.
What is the most successful story from Feed My School for a Week? We’ve had so many school systems that participate and the biggest success of this is the introduction of all aspects of Georgia agriculture to our students.
Can you please tell us more about Georgia Grown Test Kitchen?The Georgia Grown Test Kitchen is a way for us to develop recipes that follows the USDA meal pattern and that means calorie requirement, sodium requirement, and using in-season Georgia commodities. We have tested cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken, pears, apples, turnip greens, collard greens, green beans, tomatoes, and corn. In our future recipes we will be doing strawberries, blueberries, squash, bell peppers, cucumbers, and broccoli. And these are all just Georgia commodities. Those are the main or some of the top commodities that we produce in Georgia.
What do you think children will be eating ten years from now? Well, if the trend keeps going the way it is, we are introducing the kids to all sorts of new things, and the kids will be eating, hopefully, a lot healthier, a lot more local, fruits and fresh vegetables. And this is in school, because it is in school where we can introduce children to a lot of new and exciting things. In Georgia, agriculture is our number one industry, which introduces them to a huge amount of things produced right here in the state. So, hopefully, they will be eating a lot more fresh local fruits, vegetables, and Georgia products.
Do schools keep up with what they learn in the program? How does that work? The Feed my School for a Week program is a three-year commitment on the school side. What we have found is that at the school, their first year (of the program) is huge, absolutely huge. We’ve had schools that have taken it to middle school. We have one school system this year that is working with a high school. More and more students are being introduced to agriculture, the industry, the careers, the possibilities, and what it does for their entire community. Agriculture is the center of your entire food source and lots of things that are around you that you use on your daily basis. I also find that the educational aspect of it is huge. We also found that at our school cafeterias, it increases the National School Lunch Program participation. The students see where their food comes from. It tends to make them actually try more food that has been offered to them through the National School Lunch Program in their schools.
It is very interesting to see all the efforts to introduce healthier meals and specially to connect school children to farmers and to their own identity. Food is totally connected to who they are, where they are from, their traditions, and their stories. This way we have a more kind of blended society because kids are been introduced to foods that they may not have ever traditionally eaten. So that’s another total aspect of it. It’s blending and raising food awareness by bringing foods a little bit from everywhere. What we’ve learned in Georgia is that there are so many different foods.