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A 2020 Vision for Georgia School Cafeterias

GO_TasteTestStills_-9The benefit that farm to school programs offer to farmers is about to get a boost, thanks to a new joint effort spearheaded by the Georgia Departments of Agriculture, Public Health, and Education.

The 2020 Vision for School Nutrition is a statewide initiative to have 20 percent of the school cafeteria menu come from local sources by the year 2020, forging a new food future for Georgia students, and increasing the financial stability of family farms. Additionally, 20 percent of schools will be pushed to reach the 50 percent mark by 2020.

“As the program grows and evolves, so will the relationships between farmers and schools [resulting] in increased profits for farmers and, hopefully, more farm job opportunities as well,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black. “With well over 2,000 public schools serving nearly 2 million students in Georgia, the potential economic impact of farm to school programs can be quite substantial.”

The program will also ensure students have the nutrition they need for a successful school day.

“Our students must have proper, nutritious meals in order to learn, and that’s why I’m excited to help make the ‘2020 Vision for School Nutrition’ a reality,” said Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods. “We have a great opportunity to create a movement in Georgia for more local and highly nutritious foods in our school cafeterias.

Georgia schools are already embracing farm to school in their classrooms and cafeterias: 39 school districts received Golden Radish Awards at the state capitol last year. The Golden Radish Award, Georgia’s premier farm to school award coordinated by the Georgia Departments of Agriculture, Public Health, and Education and Georgia Organics, honors school districts that are doing innovative and extraordinary farm to school efforts, including procuring food from within the state.

The USDA Farm to School Census estimates that $40,647,400 was invested in local food in Georgia during the 2013-2014 school year, and the 2020 Vision hopes to create even stronger connections between agriculture and education.

“Georgia Organics is proud of the leadership exhibited by our state agencies to move the needle on farm to school in Georgia,” said Georgia Organics Farm to School Director Emily Cumbie-Drake. “The 2020 Vision builds on the success of the Golden Radish Awards program and will enhance our shared goals to serve students healthy, delicious, local food while supporting local farmers.”

Georgia Organics’ Farm to School program has already benefited local farmers. Ronnie Mathis of Mountain Earth Farms in Clarkesville, is thrilled to have more options to sell his produce. Selling to schools earned Mathis over $9,000 last year.

“Schools are another avenue of selling, and every farmer needs many avenues,” said Mathis. “And we’re trying to get healthy food into young people’s hands – that’s the key trying to improve the health of the young people, and a lot of times kids are able to convince their parents. All the way around it’s a win-win situation.”

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