November 13, 2020 - Ellijay, GA – School Nutrition Programs across Georgia are achieving milestones in 2020, despite it being an extraordinary year for staff, students and families. This was the theme underpinning celebrations at Gilmer County High yesterday, where representatives from Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Department of Agriculture announced the achievement of the 2020 Vision for School Nutrition. A proposal crafted back in 2015 to increase the composition of Georgia Grown foods in school meals to at least 20 percent.
Dr. Shanna Downs, Gilmer County School Superintendent, in welcoming the delegation, signaled pride in the Gilmer program, lauding local School Nutrition Director Linda Waters and school nutrition staff for their commitment and efforts to ensure an integrated program which provided nutritious meals for students and connected them with development opportunities.
State School Nutrition Director Dr. Linette Dodson said the “Gilmer County School Nutrition Program is exceptional, having served between 1,600 to 2,000 meals daily during the shutdown earlier in the year, and represents a shining example of the resilience of Georgia school nutrition programs, which together served over 85 million meals since this March.” Dr. Dodson added, “it is important that our students grow up on quality school meals with Georgia grown foods, as it increases their engagement not only in the nutritional aspect but also in learning and helping to strengthen partnerships within our communities.”
The economic impact from Georgia Grown foods in School Nutrition has seen a steady rise since 2015 and is an enormous victory for Georgia farmers, remarked Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. “Our numbers from 186 (Georgia) School Systems indicate over $59 million in Georgia Grown and $77 million in regional foods being purchased by School Nutrition programs during the 2019-2020 school year.” Georgia Grown foods procured through the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grew from $9.1 million in 2015 to $25 million in 2020. “Georgia Grown is available to every Georgia school every day,” Commissioner Black said.
The prototype for a commemorative ‘2020 Vision for School Nutrition’ street sign was unveiled during the celebrations, with plans now underway for its installation across the school systems counted in the 2019-2020 data.
Director Linda Waters beamed at the podium as she updated the visiting delegation on School Nutrition activities in Gilmer County. “I am so proud of my team and what we have been able to do here together, providing nutritious meals for our students, integrating Farm to School, working with our colleagues in the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education program (CTAE) on a new and exciting 2.5 acre orchard project and connecting with local businesses on opportunities for our students.”
An early Thanksgiving lunch was on offer from the Gilmer High School Cafeteria and attendees at the celebratory event delighted in the menu, which thrilled with a secret recipe cream of sweet potato soup, a fresh salad, southern-style green beans, savory roast turkey, freshly baked rolls and was topped off with a warm apple crisp.
Walking from the Media Center through to the pristine cafeteria and into the serving line, it was clear that the Gilmer County School Nutrition team was well-prepared and wholly invested in serving quality school meals with Georgia Grown foods to their eager and welcoming students.
It was a beautiful day at Gilmer High - a beacon of hope on a hill in Ellijay.