by FoodCorps Service Member Susie Burton
… Habersham County!
I dropped by the office of Andrea Thomas, Habersham’s School Nutrition Director, the other day to chat about farm to school and what it means to her and to our county.
In school nutrition since 2003, Andrea joined Habersham’s team as School Nutrition Director in March of 2014. Educator, coordinator, and overall superstar Teri Hamlin did much of the work to launch Habersham F2S in the years prior to Andrea’s arrival, with vital support from then-SND Paige Holland. Andrea credits our current program to their passion and dedication, insisting that, “without [them] it wouldn’t have started at all.” Andrea jumped right in to the F2S movement, and the arrival of Habersham’s first FoodCorps service members, Sumer Ladd and Ian Rossiter, in the fall of 2014 bolstered the program’s classroom connections and school garden components.
With that strong foundation, Habersham continues to make F2S a substantial part of its School Nutrition Program, with expanding school gardens, school wide taste tests of Georgia-grown items, and a successful FFVP program. Each menu created by Andrea and her staff highlights a Georgia-grown Harvest of the Month item, which cafeteria staffs feature on lunch trays throughout the month (speaking of lunch trays, Andrea’s favorite school lunch tray features chicken and is piled high with mashed potatoes, fall vegetables, fruit, and white milk). Andrea’s F2S goals for the 2016-17 school year include procuring the best-tasting, most affordable meats, fruits, and vegetables for the program, and to continue earning recognition from Georgia Organics’ Golden Radish Awards.
What motivates Andrea and her staff to achieve those goals? A holistic understanding of the value of F2S for students and the greater Habersham community. As Andrea explains, F2S means bringing, “fruits and vegetables from local farmers into the school, allowing students to have access to them. Students know where their food is grown, and it keeps local money in the local economy.” Andrea adds, “it should be more nutritious since it hasn’t run around in a truck and gone to Cuba and back before we get it.”
How does Habersham School Nutrition go about achieving their F2S goals? By putting faith in the cafeteria staff members, the boots on the ground who feed thousands of students every day. Of all the fantastic things her school nutrition program accomplishes, Andrea is proudest of her staff and their daily efforts to make a difference in kids’ lives.
As a second year service member in Habersham, I’m more than a little biased when it comes to our School Nutrition Team. From the district office staff–who make local procurement happen–to the cafeteria staffs at CES and LGES–who put their blood, sweat, and tears into our taste tests (metaphorically, of course)–I am blessed to serve with these folks. Their dedication to serving our students the very best, day in and day out and year after year, is incredible.