October in Athens is anything but dull. Between the pumpkin carvings, costume parades, football games and Food Day celebrations, it seems like every single day we’re being pulled in 10 festive directions. With all of this seasonal revelry that your harvest heart desires at your fingertips, you may have forgotten that October was National Farm to School Month.
Not to worry, your Athens Farmers Market is here to make sure you never miss an opportunity to celebrate sustainable eating!
For those of you who caught the presidential debates this past month, you probably felt the extreme party polarization that has been created by the seemingly endless season of political turmoil. If there is one concept that both candidates and their supporters can agree on, however, it is that we must find a way to provide students with the tools that they need to be successful.
For some reason, sustainability and nutrition never seems to make the political agenda, despite staggering obesity rates that threaten our nation (68.8% of adults and nearly 32% of children**). Luckily, while the policy makers are on the road kissing babies, dedicated private individuals are working hard to provide students with more environmentally and nutritionally responsible food options.
Farm to What?
The national Farm to School Movement is broadly associated with any program that connects schools (k-12) and local farms. Its objectives include serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Farm to School programs exist in some capacity all 50 states.
The idea is that students will choose healthier foods if products are fresh, locally grown, and picked at the peak of their flavor. Students will be even more enticed to choose healthy foods if healthy choices are reinforced with educational activities. It aims to change the relationship that students have with food so that they make more responsible choices and experience the academic, social and physical benefits of a healthy and fresh diet.
Athens is On Board!
Athens Farm to School (AF2S) was initiated several years ago by Stacy Smith, who has children at Chase Street Elementary School. The goal of the movement is to promote the inclusion of locally grown produce in Athens-Clarke County schools and connect its classrooms with our hard-working local farmers and chefs. Although AF2S operates almost completely off of donations from organizations such as Georgia Organics, the program has already achieved substantial success. As a result of AF2S initiatives, the Clarke County School District (CCSD) has made huge changes to its lunch programs, which affects around 10,000 meals each day.
Thanks to AF2S
-78% of Athens Clarke County students receive free and reduced-cost nutritious lunches.
-Each school has a full kitchen and a dedicated lunch room staff who serve whole wheat bread, rolls, and pizza crusts and fresh fruits and veggies sourced from Georgia farmers whenever possible.
-Foods of minimal nutritional value are not offered or sold in the cafeterias.
-Meats and pre-prepared products are procured to meet specific nutrient requirements including no trans fat, low fat, high fiber, etc.
-The Mayfield milk served is locally produced and free from rBST and antibiotics.
On the first Saturday of every month, Athens Farm to School teams up with the Athens Farmers Market to host children’s activities. AF2S also holds additional events throughout the year, such as a Round Table event on November 5th, in order to garner more attention and community involvement.
Sorry Pizza, in Athens you are still not a vegetable. We don’t care how many ounces of tomato paste that you have.
Check out AF2S on Facebook!
**According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), 68.8% of American adults are overweight or obese, and nearly 32% of children.