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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

Georgia Organics' Farm to School Initiative: Connecting Kids to Food Through Hands-On Education

Aug 29, 2016 07:08PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
The collaborative initiatives of Georgia Organics with nearby counties, as well as a few Rabun County collaborations, were too inspiring to pass up. Based in Atlanta, Georgia Organics is working to change the way people eat and think about food. Their goal is to connect local-area, organic farmers with all Georgians, benefitting not only the community, but the overall health of the community, as well. 

Recently, they also collaborated with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. You can learn more about them in a recent article we posted, "Food Bank of Northeast Georgia: Working Towards Ending Hunger." Also in Rabun County, there was a FoodCorps service member that represented Georgia Organics. And last year, Rabun County won a Golden Radish Award.

One of their initiatives that is particularly inspiring is their Farm to School program. This program, founded in 2007, is working to educate schools about the benefits of locally-sourced eating habits. 

Emily Cumbie-Drake, the Farm to School Director with Georgia Organics, took some time to give us more details about Georgia Organics, their mission, and the exciting Farm to School program.

Tell me about Georgia Organics. How long has it been around? 

EC: Georgia Organics is a nonprofit organization and is an outgrowth of a grower’s association established in the 1970s.  Our mission is to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families.  Our vision is for all Georgians to eat organic food from local farms, transforming our health, our environment, and our economy.

How long have you been with them & what is your role there?

Abbie King, Georgia Organics Farm to School Coordinator, Emily Cumbie-Drake, GA F2S Director, and Jenna Mobley, Farm to School Consultant.

EC: I started working with Georgia Organics in January 2014 as the Farm to School Coordinator and am now the Farm to School Director (starting in January 2015).  However, I first started volunteering with Georgia Organics in 2009 when I was a student at Emory University.  Michael Pollan was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Georgia Organics Conference and I had recently read the Omnivore’s Dilemna.  When I heard that he was the keynote, I knew that this was an organization that I wanted to get involved with and found out that volunteer spots were still open to help out at the Conference. 

What is the ultimate goal & mission? 

EC: Georgia Organics’ mission is to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families.  Our vision is for all Georgians to eat organic food from local farms, transforming our health, our environment, and our economy.

Tell me about the Farm to School program. What does it do, and who does it benefit?

EC: Farm to school programs connect kids to food through providing hands-on education (often in the school garden!), offering delicious, locally-produced food in school meal programs, coordinating farm field trips or farmer visits to schools, and other activities that enable kids to experience where food comes from, how to grow it, cook it, and enjoy eating it.  Across the country,  farm to school programs have emerged as an effective tool to develop students with healthy eating habits from a very young age and have been shown to increase preferences of fruits and vegetables. 

Georgia Organics’ Farm to School program supports efforts across the state. Georgia Organics’ long-term goal is to institutionalize farm to school in Georgia so that students are eating healthy, local meals and adopting life-long healthy eating habits.  We do this by providing training and technical assistance to school nutrition, teachers, and community members, we partner with Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Public Health to award school districts with the Golden Radish Awards for farm to school achievements, we coordinate an annual October Farm to School Month campaign, lead Georgia’s FoodCorps AmeriCorps program, and offer numerous resources for free on our website, and monthly farm to school newsletter.

Partnerships and collaboration amongst state agencies, non-profits, farmers, school districts, and active community members are essential throughout this work!

How can people get involved? 

EC: We’re a member-supported organization, so the easiest way to get involved is to become a member.  Membership benefits include discounts to our annual conference and events (in addition to knowing that you’re supported our work, of course!).

To learn more about becoming a member, visit the membership signup website

We always need volunteers to make our work possible, especially around our conference.  Our 20th Annual Conference is Feb. 17-18, 2017 in Atlanta.  Registration and volunteer details will be available later this fall. 

Teachers, community members, and school nutrition staff are invited to attend a series of Edible Education workshops we’re hosting in September (see below flyer for details).  These workshops are aimed at K-5 educators, but others involved in K-5 schools are welcome to attend, particularly if you come along with a teacher. 

Everyone has a role to play in farm to school—whether you are a parent, teacher, farmer, or an enthusiastic community member.  October is National Farm to School Month, and each year Georgia Organics organizes a campaign to celebrate.  

This year, we’re celebrating spinach, Leaf it to Spinach.  Anyone who is involved with kids or schools is welcome to sign-up online.  After signing-up, you will receive a free electronic toolkit with spinach-themed lesson plans, school garden resources, spinach recipes and so much more.  Plus, the first 300 people to sign-up will get a free packet of spinach seeds in the mail.  

For more details, visit this website

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

EC: I hated tomatoes until I was 22 years old, or at least thought I hated them.  I always thought tomatoes tasted a bit ‘foamy’ and didn’t have much flavor.  However, when I was 22-years old, I visited Love is Love Farm to do research for my senior thesis on organic farmers in Georgia and the farmer, Joy Reynolds offered to let me try a tomato.  I reluctantly tasted a bright orange Sun Gold tomato fresh off of the vine.  It had been warmed by the sun and when I bit into it, the warm, sweet juices of this freshly picked tomato made all of my taste buds tingle!  From then on, I’ve been hooked on tomatoes, but I only eat them during the summer when they are fresh and at the height of their deliciousness.  

Although this isn’t a farm to school story, per-say, I often reflect on this personal experience to remind myself that there is endless opportunity across our state for students (much younger than 22!) to have similar experiences trying and falling in love with new, fresh delicious foods. 

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