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Taste of College Event

Thomas County Schools​​

Beef Medallions, Pork Loin, and Chicken Tikka Masala might sound like items you would find on a restaurant menu, but in one Georgia school district, these dishes all landed on school lunch trays in a single week.

Excitement was in the air in Thomas County Schools last week as the Thomas County School Nutrition Program celebrated their inaugural “Taste of College” event. Each day, Thomas County Central High School students got the chance to experience signature dining options from a different one of five Georgia colleges: Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and University of Georgia. The goal of the event was to help students get excited about future opportunities and weigh their options when deciding the best college for them.

Organizing an event of this scale was no small task. When School Nutrition Coordinator Kalin Bryan first thought up the concept, she reached out to University of Georgia Extension for advice on where to start. Through support from the Thomas County Schools administration, a grant from No Kid Hungry, and numerous community partnerships, Bryan and School Nutrition Director Lauren Duplantis were able to make their dreams a reality.

“We are so pleased with our Taste of College experience at Thomas County Central High School. We had our highest participation for both students and staff this school year,” stated Bryan. Participation was so high that on Wednesday, April 27, over 90 percent of students present in school that day ate a school meal. 

The students were certainly not the only ones who gained from the Taste of College event. Thomas County Central High School’s Nutrition Professionals gained tremendous professional development experience through preparing the new dishes each day. The Georgia Department of Education School Nutrition Program’s own Culinary Specialist Chef John Huff was on site Wednesday through Friday to offer up his culinary expertise and share tips and tricks during preparation of the 100% from scratch recipes.

“I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Taste of College Event. The students loved the recipes and the variety of menu options offered. The biggest challenge with this event was the amount of prep work and cooler space that was needed to prepare for and cook 25+ recipes.  That’s over 8,700 portions of food that had to be ordered, prepared and cooked in a week,” stated Chef Huff.

The event garnered considerable excitement. The Thomas County Central High School Band played in the cafeteria during lunch, the school nutrition program went live on social media, and it was even covered in a news story from WALB: https://www
State Agency Area Consultant Monika Griner was also in attendance, and she had nothing but positive feedback for the Thomas County School Nutrition Professionals. “Lauren and her staff are to be commended for hosting an amazing event, one in which Georgia School Nutrition was represented in a positive manner. I just can’t say enough,” stated Griner.

It is safe to say the first Taste of College event was a tremendous success; so much so that the district is planning to make it an annual event. The efforts to go above and beyond to serve Georgia students and Fuel Georgia’s Future are clearly on display in Thomas County School Nutrition.​