With fewer households cooking from scratch these days, kids often miss the opportunity to eat locally grown produce. Thanks to Rabun County School Nutrition Director, Cindi Dean, farmer, Terri Jagger Blincoe, and chef, Jamie Allred, 529 students at Rabun County elementary school tried roasted okra from Ladybug Farms in Clayton. “I hope my participation in growing fresh produce for the Farm to School program will inspire a new generation of healthy eaters that are committed to respecting and nurturing the land that provides all this abundance” says Blincoe. Blincoe grows between 8,000-10,000 pounds of food on two ¼ acre fields and one 1/8 acre field. “It is a small scale farm but intensive and highly productive” comments Blincoe.
Recognizing where your food comes from and knowing how to cook is a life skill that can help lead to healthier choices, the Northeast Georgia Farm to School program has partnered with local chefs to bring that knowledge, skill and expertise into the cafeteria and classroom. Chef Jamie Allred has dedicated his time and expertise as a Farm to School Chef since 2013. During this time chef Jamie has led numerous hands-on workshops for the Northeast Georgia Farm to School project, including workshops with cafeteria staff, nutrition directors and students. The executive chef and part owner of Fortify Kitchen and Bar, Main Street, Clayton recently led a workshop for the Rabun County nutrition staff and was the first person to volunteer to cook and serve students a local farm produce. Chef Jamie finds working with students a great resource to show our future where their food comes from and how it is grown. “I enjoy providing the students the hands on and tasting experiences and teaching them what goes into preparing fresh food for consumption from washing, chopping and cooking. The end results are satisfying and offer great nourishment for the soul. I think it is also great for students to see and use skills in a trade that could lead them into a career and eventually will be part of their well being as they will know how to cook for themselves fresh food compared to processed.”
A Farm to School taste test is an event that offers students small samples of local foods during school lunch hours in the cafeteria. Samples of local foods are offered to students separately from the school lunch at a designated table in the cafeteria and they have the opportunity to meet the farmer who grew the food or a chef who prepared the recipe. After the students taste the local food item community volunteers ask the students to vote if they liked it and if they would like it on their cafeteria tray. Cindi Dean, Nutrition Director of Rabun County Schools, stated that engaging our students in the Farm to School project is a critical step in changing students’ behavior towards trying new food. “When students participate in tastings, it provides them the opportunity to try a variety of foods and introduces them to foods that are locally grown and in season” says Dean. “It creates a fun, memorable and positive food experience for the students.” Dean has scheduled monthly taste test for the school year.