The Times’ Life section will explore the Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy students’ visit to a local farm.
A North Hall school passed the “dinner table test” this week after working in collaboration with local farmers to provide students with Georgia-grown products all week for lunch.
This past week, Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy participated in “Feed My School for a Week,” a collaboration between the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Education to get locally grown products into school cafeterias.
And at week’s end, organizers say the program could not have gone any better.
“(The students) really did enjoy the Georgia-grown products,” said Jo Dinnan, Wauka Mountain principal. “They really love knowing that the products were from Georgia and were fresh.”
Throughout the week, local growers like Dawsonville’s Hugh Stowers Jr., who provided stone-ground cornmeal, supplied the school with fresh products that cafeteria workers turned into homemade meals.
“Anything I can contribute for those children to eat better, I want to do it,” said Stowers. “I just like to contribute what I can so they learn what I’ve done for many years.”
The program was not just about feeding the students; it was about educating them.
Throughout the week, students went on trips to farms, held an ag day and saw a cow being milked.
“We really did try to make it educational,” Dinnan said. “I don’t think our kids would’ve really gotten it if we had just put Georgia-grown food on the lunch line. I don’t think it would’ve been as meaningful.”
Wauka Mountain was one of three schools in the state to pilot the program, which state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black hopes to see sustained on a broader scale.
“There have been many successful farm-to-school ventures, but we were trying to think about how to get a sustainable effort instead of just a one-shot deal,” Black said.
After this week, Dinnan and Stowers could see it happening, but there would be some challenges inherent in coordinating the program on a full-scale.
Food storage, harvest times and quantity are all issues that need to be addressed before the program could go for longer than one week.
But Dinnan says she could see it work part-time.
“I definitely see it being positive for at least part of the year,” she said. “It just teaches our kids about supporting Georgia and local growers.”
And that support and knowledge is important to those local growers.
“I always believe the children need to know where the food comes from,” said Stowers. “I just think we’ve gotten too far away from that.”
The school principal sees it every day and this program, she said, really sparked the kids’ interest.
“It’s so perfect for Wauka Mountain because we are a rural community; we are a farming community,” said Dinnan. “So it’s perfect for our boys and girls. But we found out, even though we are a farming community, a lot of our children don’t know much about those things.”
Dinnan said Wauka Mountain will pilot the program for the next two years and will continue to work on improving the menu and the collaboration between the school and the farmers.
If it was up to Stowers, there would not be one processed item on the lunch line.
He recalled a good friend from Dallas, Texas telling him: “The further from the soil a person gets, the more plastic they become.”
Wauka Mountain wasn’t plastic this past week.