In early November 2012, Georgia Organics hosted special guest Doug Davis for a series of workshops with school and community leaders from across north Georgia.
Mr. Davis is the School Nutrition Director for Burlington, VT City Schools. He was named School Nutrition Association’s Director of the Year in 2010 and joined us to share how he has grown one of the most successful farm to school programs in the country. Last year alone, the Burlington School Food Project served over 100,000 pounds of locally grown food from 23 different farms. In addition to local and organic produce, beef, and chicken, the program also features hands-on cooking programs and farm field trips to help insure children’s preference for new, healthy foods.
Mr. Davis’s first stop in Georgia was Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School. There, he led a workshop for school nutrition directors on best practices when using salad bars, co-hosted by the CDC and Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools. Salad bars have been shown to be an effective strategy for increasing children’s consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Mr. Davis shared the history of his district’s salad bar program, which has culminated in every student visiting a salad bar every day. His presentation also highlighted:
● Partnering with local farms to supply produce for the salad bar
● Processing large amounts of whole produce on-site
● Recipes and innovative ways to use vegetables and legumes
The group also worked together to make a delicious Marinated Black Bean and Corn Salad which could be featured on a salad bar.
Mr. Davis’s next stop was South Jackson Elementary School in Jackson County. Mr. Davis spoke to a packed house of parents, teachers, school nutrition staff, administrators, farmers, and community members about how to develop farm to school programs in their district. He gave an overview of his own farm to school program, highlighting its partnerships in the community. Mr. Davis also urged parents and teachers to support school nutrition staff in their efforts to feed students nutritious meals and expand meals featuring local food.
From South Jackson, Mr. Davis moved on to Kings Bridge Middle School, also in Jackson County. There, he spoke with school nutrition staff representing seven districts in northeast Georgia. During the roundtable, Mr. Davis delved more deeply into ways to negotiate food vendor contracts to include the flexibility to buy locally. The group discussed using the USDA’s Geographic Preference rule and Mr. Davis encouraged them not to be afraid to start small and build from there. His own program began with small orders for local lettuce and apples in 2003, but has grown to over $50,000 spent on local food in 2012. He also suggested marketing their school nutrition programs through social media so the whole community can know about the food they are serving, offering his district’s facebook page as an example.
Finally, Mr. Davis traveled to Calhoun to meet with agriculture education teachers, school nutrition staff, farmers, and community members about farm to school programming in northwest Georgia. He spoke about the importance of including teachers in food education and in preparing students to be consumers. The group was especially excited about hosting a “farmers’ forum” in the near future as a way for several area farmers to meet directly with school nutrition staff about what their needs are. Then, farmers can plan to grow crops specifically for schools.
During all of these events, Mr. Davis highlighted:
● Ways schools could create and expand relationships with local farmers
● How schools can work with food vendors to help distribute local food
● How school nutrition contracts and bids do not have to be a barrier to local food purchases
● Using parent- or teacher-run taste tests as a way to help expose students to new food
● The importance of having a broad base of support in the community to help maintain farm to school programs in school cafeterias
During Doug Davis’s whirlwind tour he inspired many with the story of his farm to school program. The success of the Burlington School Food Project showed school and community leaders across north Georgia what is possible through determined effort and collaboration. Participants in these workshops identified partnerships, got new ideas, and left excited about the future of farm to school programming in north Georgia.
Mr. Davis also took time to chat about Farm to School with the staff of Georgia Organics. Read some of his thoughts here.