By: Katie Sanders, FoodCorps service member
This week I had the opportunity to drive down to Burke County, Georgia to visit their Farm to School program. Burke County has been awarded the Gold Level Golden Radish Award, a distinction given to schools with exceeding farm to school programs, since 2014 and this past year they were even awarded Outstanding District of the Year. We met with Kara Leclair, the Assistant Nutrition Director in charge of Farm to School, Early Head Start, and the district wellness policy, who gave us an overview of the farm to school program before driving us around the county to visit the schools and a local farm that supplies the cafeterias.
Our first stop on the tour was the aquaponics farm, Fisheads, which supplies the county’s schools with fresh lettuce to be used on the lunch line. The facility, which uses fish to naturally fertilize the plants, is a great aid in supplying vegetables to the schools. We even tried the lettuce on the lunch line later at one of the schools and it was very fresh and flavorful!
After the farm visit we traveled to a couple of the schools to see how they incorporate farm to school into the classroom setting. At the primary school, the most striking feature was the painted decorations all around the cafeteria. Walking into the cafeteria felt like entering a jungle space as every wall was covered in flora and fauna from tropical rainforests. On the lunch line itself were realistic and cartoon depictions of food items. It is surprising how much a little paint and decoration can really increase the cafeteria environment. I certainly want to incorporate these ideas back into the food environment at my service sites.
Our visit to Burke County was an inspiring reminder of all the exciting things with which farm to school programs can be involved. They use a mobile cooking cart that travels between schools to bring in cooking and nutrition lessons into the classroom across the county. To support their cafeterias, the farm to school program purchases a wide variety of local products including whole wheat flour, a variety of fresh frozen peas, and lettuce from local farms or mills. It is exciting to see farm to school flourishing in a county and it certainly gave me loads of ideas for how we can continue to improve our farm to school influence here in Jackson County.