School Nutrition Program Wins USDA Awards | Best Of
The Bibb County School Nutrition Program has been recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its efforts to incorporate healthier foods into school meals and for increasing participation in school lunch.
The School Nutrition Program was presented with USDA 2013 Best Practice Awards for Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Increasing Participation in School Lunch in the Secondary Schools during the Georgia School Nutrition Association (GSNA) National School Lunch Week 2013 Kick-off Luncheon on Thursday, September 26. The School Nutrition Program also received 2013 Georgia Best Practices Award Recognition for both categories at the luncheon.
"As an award recipient, you've set yourself apart as an example for others to follow," said Nancy Rice, Director of School Nutrition for the Georgia Department of Education. "Your hard work and dedication is exemplary as you have clearly implemented creative ways to successfully accomplish your goals within the local school system. This was no small task to accomplish and it is a testament of your commitment to your system, your community, and your profession."
An increase in fruit and vegetable consumption came through the School Nutrition Program's work with teachers and staff to plant school gardens. In February 2012, the first school garden was planted at Ingram-Pye Elementary School. The project began when students planted a flower in some old work boots. The School Nutrition Program gained approval to fund the project and, with help from community business partners and the Maintenance Department, it grew. The project started with two above ground bed kits, which students helped to build and prepare for planting from the ground up. The hands-on experience created a sense of accomplishment and ownership with staff and students.
Since then, the request for school gardens has been overwhelming as staff and students realize the positive impact school gardens have on the students in Bibb County. Most recently, Lane Elementary School became the 10th school in the District with a garden. Members of the School Nutrition Program, along with guests from the Bibb County Cooperative Extension Office and the Master Gardeners of Central Georgia helped students plant vegetables and herbs in six new gardens at Lane Elementary School on Thursday, September 26.
Prior to the school gardens, the average student consumption of fresh vegetables during the 2011-2012 school year was 36 percent, as measured by the number of servings students selected through offerings versus being served at lunch. In February 2013, the average consumption increased to 43 percent. Students also became more willing to try new fruits and vegetables, and learned that gardens can be planted at home as families strive to make healthier lifestyle choices. Educationally, students acquire math and science skills by measuring the distance between plants, graphing the rate of growth, and monitoring the process of photosynthesis and plant life cycles.
In an effort to increase participation in school meals among high school students, the School Nutrition Program decided to implement a new concept for the District: preparing fresh sub sandwiches on the line, in true restaurant-style, made-to-order exclusively for secondary school food courts.
To successfully implement sub lines in secondary schools, the School Nutrition Program researched ways this could be accomplished with the various serving line setups across the District. Staff also visited Coffee County in February 2012 and observed their sub lines during a meal service. After selecting a pilot school for a sub line, staff began planning for equipment needs, food item selections, type and sizes of serving pans, and labor needs.
In March 2012, the first sub line opened at Howard High School. In April 2012 a second sub line opened at Rutland High School, and by May all high schools were operating a sub line.
Prior to the implementation of the first sub line in March 2012, the average participation for high school food courts was 76 percent. Once the sub lines were operational, participation increased to 81 percent.