Emanuel County Schools Nutrition Department Expands its Farm to School Initiative




CLAUDIA ARLEDGE, KIM HOOKS, WILLIE NOBLES, CHANDRA HOOKS

The Emanuel County Schools Nutrition Department is expanding its Farm to School initiative to offer students more learning experiences. Mrs. Kim Hooks, Farm to School Coordinator, is excited about bringing this movement to our students, local farmers, and community.

Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry and an integral part of Emanuel County’s economy. According to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, Emanuel County has 465 farms, and 98% of those are family owned. The Farm to School program enriches the connection among students, teachers, and farmers. This movement empowers children and their families to make healthy food choices while strengthening the local economy.

The Georgia Department of Education describes Farm to School as “a movement that connects all parts of the food system with all aspects of the school day. It creates an educational opportunity for students to identify where food comes from, learn why it is important, and apply knowledge from all subject areas in an engaging way.”

Students in Emanuel County Schools are participating in many learning activities related to food-based education that aligns with the curriculum criteria. Among these activities are taste testing local foods that are purchased, promoted, and served in the cafeteria and planting school gardens.

Each month, the School Nutrition Program will highlight a fruit or vegetable that can be purchased from local farmers. The popular fruit, watermelon, was highlighted in August. The watermelons were purchased from local farmer Willie Nobles, owner of Passion Farm Incorporated in Twin City, Georgia. Here are some ways students interacted with this fruit: Students from SPS, SES, and TCE enjoyed taste-testing as they learned about the fruit through various learning activities. Swainsboro Middle School students enjoyed eating watermelons as their PBIS reward. ECI students in Anna Johnson's class cut and prepared the fruit. Then, ECI students participated in a watermelon slushy taste test. GSU School Nutrition intern, Elaina Waters, assisted in the learning activities. Each month, students can find additional resources and learning activities in their school’s media center.

Growing crops has students excited! This hands-on learning can improve student knowledge of eating healthy and positively affect academic performance. Swainsboro Primary and Twin City Elementary are currently in the process of planting. Emanuel County Institute and Swainsboro High School are preparing their grounds for planting. Kim Hooks explains that the goal is for all schools to have gardens. Mrs. Hooks said, “My objective is for every student in our school system to grow something from seeds, watch it mature, and hopefully enjoy the produce. We want our students to be excited about the opportunities about the lessons the garden teaches us during every season of the year.” Additionally, hydroponic tower gardens will be purchased for all schools. Students in some of our CTAE classes will learn that not all products have to be grown outdoors in the soil.

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