FARM TO SCHOOL
Matthew Rao became an advocate for Farm to School efforts as part of an assignment in a leadership development course. The charge was to create a program beneficial to his particular community. Secondly, the project would be designed to grow beyond his initial efforts on its own steam. Long interested and involved in community development and food, Matthew dreamed of a farm to school program which would bring local, organic food into public schools in his Decatur, Georgia neighborhood.
Inquiring through channels, Matthew met Erin Croom, at Georgia Organics, whom he was delighted to find was already heading a program to bring local, organic food to the schools. Asking how he could be of further help, Erin replied that although farmers were now able to supply schools with plenty of local, organic food, school food service personnel had no idea how to cook unprocessed foods. Matthew reached out to his friend, Mary Moore, the dynamic owner of Cook’s Warehouse in Atlanta, and a project to train and educate school food service workers was born.
Starting with how to hold a knife, Mary Moore’s curriculum prepares school cooks to handle and prepare food from an entirely new perspective. For example: imagine creating a chicken pot pie, not from a frozen, shrink wrapped chicken; but, from whole, fresh, local organic chickens. Local fresh vegetables and whole grain wheat. After the first successful training classes held in Decatur, the test school saw a 30% increase in the purchase of school lunches. Healthier choices enjoyed by students at school were translating into fewer fast food meals outside school and interest in healthy eating at home. As encouraging: the cafeteria workers were taking the methods home with them and spreading the learning to families throughout the community. Students and food service workers were enjoying the engagement of well prepared and thoughtfully considered meals, from knowledge of the sources and production of food, to preparation techniques and menus, to the camaraderie and connection of the shared experience.
As of this writing, the curriculum is being taught to an additional 500 food service personnel in DeKalb County. The implications for addressing dire dietary concerns among school age children are promising. The rest, as they say, we hope will be history. RDS is committed to supporting the ongoing development of the Farm to School food service training project.
We invite you to learn more or get involved by Erin Croom
Farm to School Coordinator
678.702.0400 ext. 206