It is impossible to pick up a newspaper today without seeing a headline highlighting obesity issues in the U.S. Rates for kids have become a hot button educational issue, with childhood obesity tripling in the last three decades – and Georgia is among the worst in the nation. In our state, more than 37 percent of students are overweight or obese. These children will likely grow up to become obese adults and strain our state’s healthcare costs while suffering from ailments including diabetes, high blood pressure, lost productivity and disability.
Georgia has a very unique opportunity to reach out and make a huge difference in its fight against obesity. Almost 75 percent of all children who attend public schools in our state participate in the School Nutrition Program. What better way to combat childhood obesity, than to revolutionize the school lunch menu to make a difference where it counts the most.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) realizes there are many challenges associated with a school district offering healthy options – especially when it comes to providing fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables on cafeteria trays. We understand common dilemmas include budget costs, purchasing, storage, equipment, staff preparation and proper training, food safety and, of course, food availability in general.
The phrase “Farm-to-School” is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. when it comes to thinking about how to offer healthy, fresh produce options to students. To keep Georgia a step above the rest, the state Departments of Education and Agriculture are teaming up in a combined effort to increase our knowledge so that we may better assist each and every school district in facing the challenges often associated with implementing a Farm-to-School initiative.
To start our initiative off in the 2011-12 school year, a handful of schools across the state will be included in the GDA’s pilot program, “Feed My School for a Week.” Each participating school district will have one elementary school host the event and all school lunches served out of that school’s cafeteria will be composed of 75-100 percent of Georgia Grown food. In return, the participating school must be willing and able to host a fall semester planning meeting, which will be put on by the GDA, as well as a week in the school’s spring semester dedicated to putting on the event.