State DOE pushing to keep students healthy

Launching program in three school districts

The State Department of Education has partnered with the Georgia Agriculture Department, to boost awareness of the importance of proper nutrition and healthy eating, among the state’s students.

To spread the word, a program called “Feed My School for a Week,” will be gradually introduced to schools across the state. DOE Spokesperson Matt Cardoza said the program will teach students where their food comes from.

He said Bleckley, Colquitt and Hall counties have been selected, so far, to pilot the program this year.

Cardoza said the “farm-to-cafeteria” idea is based on the “farm-to-school” concept that is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S., when it comes to offering healthy, fresh produce options to students. To keep Georgia students healthy, the Georgia departments of Education and Agriculture will work to assist all school districts in this initiative.

“Schools will host an agriculture guest speaker, hold “taste tests” for Georgia commodities, and conduct an essay contest,” said Cardoza.

During the week of the program, he said, there will also be an art contest at each school that is focused on a single Georgia commodity, in addition to several other educational activities throughout the designated week.

“Georgia is second in the nation in childhood obesity,” said State Superintendent of Schools John Barge. “The Feed My School for a Week program is a great first step in raising students’ awareness of nutritional options, as well as promoting healthier meals in our schools.”

Cardoza said the chosen school systems will be represented by an elementary school in their district. And for a one-week period in the spring semester, he said, all lunches served out of each selected school’s cafeteria will consist of 75-to-100 percent Georgia-grown food.

“The “Feed My School for a Week” program will bridge the gap in the nutritional value and quality of food served in Georgia schools, while providing more farm-to-cafeteria opportunities,” said Cardoza.

The goal, Cardoza added, is to produce healthier Georgia students, decrease barriers in farm-to-school efforts and increase awareness, as students learn and experience, both educationally and nutritionally, where their food comes from.

“This is a great leap forward to help show young Georgians where the food they eat is grown,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. “Through this program, students will learn about the processes taken to bring their school meals from a local Georgia farm to the cafeteria table, while simultaneously receiving a healthy, delicious meal.”