Emanuel County school district awarded Farm to School Innovation mini grant


Emanuel County School district will add to our farm to school innovation project, funded by a recently awarded Farm to School Innovation Grant, a collaboration between Georgia Organics and the Georgia Department of Public Health Georgia Shape Program.

The grant was awarded through a competitive application process to Georgia school district nutrition departments to support farm to school initiatives that increase access to local, fresh, organically grown food, including organic and/or sustainability-focused garden education and culturally responsive food education and/or increase local food procurement.

The project was championed by the district's Farm to School Project. Farm to School is a movement that connects all parts of the food system with all aspects of the school day. It creates an educational opportunity for students to identify where food comes from, learn why that is important, and apply knowledge from all subject areas engagingly. It is experienced through eating local foods in the school cafeteria, working with school gardens, and participating in food-based learning activities that meet established curriculum criteria.

With "Farm to School," we want every Emanuel County student to plant a seed, observe the plant grow, and then harvest the fruit or vegetable. We also want them to observe how farm animals develop and change. We are setting up each school's tower gardens, outdoor gardens, and animal habitats. These projects have a direct impact on the students. As part of this program, they cook, taste test, and harvest the plants.

Plants, potting soil, and seeds will all be purchased with this grant. The garden areas at Swainsboro Primary School, Swainsboro Elementary School, and Twin City Elementary School will be enhanced with the help of these materials.

Our most recent endeavors in Emanuel County include purchasing and erecting working beehives at the Emanuel County Institute, as well as collecting eggs from chicken coops at Twin City Elementary and Swainsboro Elementary Schools. These schools have additional hen and rooster pens to facilitate hands-on experiences with the life cycle. Growing fish in our pond on Tiger Trail teaches students at Swainsboro Middle School how to harvest fish. Our understudies will advance by taking care of business and seeing life-altering events firsthand.

There is more for our school district to "crow about,” Two years in a row, we were awarded the "Golden Radish Award." In Georgia, Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) that perform exceptional farm to school-work receive the Golden Radish Award. Georgia Organics, the UGA Cooperative Extension, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Georgia Department of Education present the award. Every October, the heads of these five groups honor LEAs that win.

We learned a lot from the recent Covid lockdown, including the importance of knowing where our food comes from and supporting local farmers who can provide it. We also learned that personal health practices that prevent diseases and illnesses must be adopted. Our focus shifted to becoming advocates for health. Our objective is to impart these lessons to our Emanuel County Students.

"Georgia Organics is proud to seed farm to school innovations in Georgia school districts with these mini-grants. We look forward to learning along with awardees and sharing their progress widely. The access and equity-focused best practices developed through these projects will serve as models for farm to school programs in our state and nationwide," said Kimberly Della Donna, Farm to School Director.

Public health’s core mission is to decrease health inequities in communities across

Georgia. Mini grants like the Farm to School Innovation grant support best practices in

nutrition education to increase access to nutritious foods for our children across the

state,” remarked Carmen Daniel, MPH, Georgia Shape Director.

Georgia Organics is a member-supported, non-profit organization that champions organic agriculture and healthy families by prioritizing farmer prosperity, engaging children with good food in their cafeterias and classrooms, and convening local leaders to address food access issues by making organic and local food accessible to all. The organization has been rooted in providing direct support to small and organic farmers across our state since the 1970s before formally incorporating as a 501(c)(3) in 1997. For more information, visit georgiaorganics.org

Georgia Shape is a statewide, multi-agency, multi-dimensional childhood obesity initiative that grew out of a 2009 bill, the Student Health, and Physical Education (SHAPE) Act. The SHAPE Act requires that all K-12 students take part in an annual fitness assessment. This legislation was the springboard that led to the Shape program at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). The collective impact model brings together governmental, philanthropic, academic, and business communities to address childhood (0-18) obesity in Georgia.

These initiatives include provider, health education, and teacher training on early feeding, breastfeed-ing, physical activity, and nutrition best practices, as well as recognition programs for schools, students, early care and education centers, and hospitals, physical activity, and nutrition programming. For in-formation, visit dph.georgia.gov/women-and-children/georgia-shape.


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