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Opportunities ripen with local food program
Ag commissioner says program great way to connect with community
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Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy fifth-grader Elizabeth Murphy takes her lunch tray to her table Thursday morning during lunch period. The school is taking part in the The Feed My School Program in which school lunches will come from local farms for a week.

Lately it seems everyone is buying local, even the school system.

A community meeting in the Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy cafeteria Thursday night provided an opportunity to discuss an upcoming program that will provide Georgia-grown food for school lunches.

Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy was one of three Georgia schools to be selected to participate in a pilot program that would put 75-100 percent Georgia-grown food on the lunch menu for one week starting May 7.

The "Feed My School for a Week" program aims to figure out the best way to bring fresh Georgia food to cafeterias across the state by testing methods with a much smaller scale.

"I think we've got our work cut out for us. I like to say this is a big baby step," said Melanie Hollingsworth, nutritional educator and outreach specialist with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Hollingsworth said there are a number of challenges but the benefits are well worth it.

"When you're supporting a local farmer you're feeding their family and in turn supporting local businesses and in turn supporting school systems. Its' really just endless," Hollingsworth said.

Reducing the time food spends being transported will reduce farmers' carbon footprint and can actually make locally produced foods more affordable, Hollingsworth said.

Mountain Fresh Creamery in Clermont is one of the local farms that has agreed to participate in the weeklong program.

Jennifer Glover and her husband, Scott, opened Mountain Fresh Creamery last summer and it is capable of producing 500 gallons of milk a day.

"We just heard it was happening and we're in the same location and just thought ‘Oh, gosh, We've got to form a partnership.' This is a great thing," Jennifer Glover said.

Glover said she was excited about the educational opportunities local produce could give children.

"We just think it's a great way to let kids know where their food comes from and about dairy farming because some of them might want to be farmers someday," Glover said.

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black spoke at the meeting and said the program is a great way to connect the community.

Black said there is a great deal of opportunity involved with the program. The farmers stand to benefit financially while the students can benefit nutritionally and by learning about agriculture.

"In our society we're accustomed to the wonderful retail centers that are open 24/7 and we have four choices of bell peppers and they're all different colors and we've grown to expect that. But we've lost the connection of what is the labor involved, what is the science involved," Black said.

Black said many of the students in the area are likely separated from the farm by two or three generations. The program can not only teach students about where their food comes from and the work that goes into it, but also career opportunities they may not have otherwise considered.

Black said dreaming about the possibilities can lead to discovering what it will take to make the program work.

"We're interested in catching the vision and having the environment where people can dream about what can happen if we all work together," Black said.

 

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