The Bartow County School District’s nutrition department is becoming somewhat of a celebrity on the state level.
At the July 24 school board meeting, the Georgia Department of Agriculture presented the nutrition staff with one of this year’s Georgia Grown System of Distinction Awards, given for the second year to recognize nutrition directors and their schools for their leadership in developing superior farm-to-school programs on the state and national level.
Misty Friedman, farm-to-school/school nutrition coordinator for the agriculture department, presented the award on behalf of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black, who had planned to attend the meeting but was called out of town.
“I don’t know how many of you know on a day-to-day basis what it takes to feed the kids of Bartow County,” she said. “Well, I have worked very closely with [School Nutrition Director] Pam Blakeney and [School Nutrition Coordinator] Kalin Bryan. For the last few years, they have been one of our Georgia [Grown] Test Kitchen systems, and they’re one of my bright, shining stars. Any time I need something or I have a weird idea, I can usually call on them, and they can help me out rather quickly. So, on behalf of Commissioner Black and the Department of Agriculture, we’d like to present to y’all this proclamation.”
Superintendent Dr. John Harper also praised the two leaders and their nutrition staff.
“They’ve done an outstanding job for us and for our children in making sure our student body is well-fed,” he said.
Being lauded as a System of Distinction is a “great honor for Bartow,” Blakeney said, noting she thinks the state recognition comes from the department’s use of social media to get the word out about the “great things in Bartow.”
“This has to be one of the highest awards [the department has received from the state], and of course, we are thrilled to be recognized by Commissioner Black,” she said. “It is a team effort to teach students healthy eating habits. Understanding how food grows is the start. Our schools include farm-to-school activities in learning activities. Our department is proud to be part of the nutrition education of Bartow students.”
Bryan said she also felt “honored to receive this prestigious award” from the commissioner.
“Only a handful of schools in Georgia have received this award for their excellence in farm-to-school programs,” she said.
This year, Barrow County Schools and Evans County Schools were the only other systems in the state to receive the designation, according to a press release.
“These school systems are on the forefront of the farm-to-school movement in the state and are leaders in setting an example of how to purchase local products while also improving nutritional value for students,” Black said in the release. “We look forward in continuing our relationship with these systems as we strive to successfully reach our goal set forth by the 20/20 Vision for School Nutrition in Georgia.”
The 20/20 Vision aims to have at least 20 percent of every meal served every day in every public school in the state be comprised of Georgia products by the start of the 2020 school year.
A member of the Georgia Grown Feed My School for a Week and Test Kitchen programs, the Bartow County department has “excelled with first-rate insight, abundant student involvement and stellar farm-to-school events that have led to further development of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s multiple farm-to-school efforts,” according to the release.
“When it comes to farm-to-school in the state of Georgia, Bartow goes above and beyond, and they are very outside-the-box thinkers when it comes to promotion and student engagement and getting them to try new things,” Friedman said. “They have been an absolute integral part of our Georgia Grown Test Kitchen program and helping us get recipes ready for distribution across the state. Pam and Kalin, they’re just one of those staffs that when we call upon, they absolutely do everything they can to help us get more Georgia products in school systems, which, in turn, helps our local farmers and our local economy.”
Being a leader in farm-to-school activities is what gets Bartow County recognized on the state level so often, according to Bryan.
“We have made it a priority to enhance and expand our farm-to-school efforts every school year,” she said.
“We look for local grown or produced products and continue to serve more each year,” Blakeney added. “Serving local or Georgia grown supports our state economy and builds pride in our community.”
Bryan said serving local products in the schools benefits Georgia farmers, but it also “teaches students where the food comes from.”
“Students get excited to see our ‘Georgia Grown’ signs and farmer biographies in the cafeteria,” she said.
In the past two years, the department also has won two Golden Radish Awards and three Georgia USDA Best Practice Awards from the state and has had two schools — Clear Creek Elementary and Adairsville High — named as test kitchens.
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