Stirring the Pot: APS Nutrition Goes for Gold … Cooks Up Platinum Radish Award!

As we celebrate National School Lunch Week, so many reasons to showcase the APS Nutrition Department

As a school district, especially one in an urban setting, Atlanta Public Schools often must make a priority of not only feeding young minds with good academics but young bodies with good food. Three of every four APS students quality for free and reduced lunch, so it’s a great pressure on our Nutrition Department to ensure all of our children get the right meals for a productive school day … every day.

I’ve had the opportunity to brag many times lately about our Nutrition Department, led by Dr. Marilyn Hughes, and our new food vendor, Southwest Foodservice Excellence, also known as SFE. They strive to include healthier options, more locally sourced foods and tastier selections for our students.

This is the perfect time to showcase APS Nutrition because this week is National School Lunch Week, when the district and school systems nationwide recognize the essential purpose of a school lunch.

APS serves 155,000 meals each and every week! With the theme of “APS School Lunch: What’s on Your Playlist?”, our Nutrition Department is spotlighting healthy menu items offered daily to all APS students.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, our school cafeterias will feature Chicken and Waffles and Turkey Ham and Cheese Quiche. On Friday, Oct. 18, the menu will include Chicken Gumbo.

I can be the biggest critic of school lunches as my Day One blog shows (amazing cole slaw and sides but thumbs down on turkey burger!)

And I was so excited that the District qualified this year for a national program that enabled us to provide free meals to all students! Through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), 77 of our schools provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge with no meal applications! That has equated to feeding an additional 2,100 to 2,700 students every day!

Here’s the latest reason to brag: APS was one of only 22 Georgia school districts to receive the Platinum Radish for its farm-to-school initiative. (FYI, there are 181 school districts in Georgia.)

The Golden Radish Awards are presented annually by the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Public Health, the UGA Cooperative Extension, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, and Georgia Organics, to local school districts doing extraordinary work in various aspects of the national farm-to-school program – which includes serving meals in schools using fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, incorporating school gardens throughout the school curriculum, and bringing real farmers into schools to talk about the fresh food industry.

Awardees are divided into four categories – honorary, bronze, silver, gold and platinum – depending on the quality of their programs. This year, 90 schools districts received a Golden Radish Award with 22, including APS, earning the highest level.

Most notable farm-to-school achievements from the past school year include:

  • APS students participated in Farm to School lessons 85,601 times through classroom and hands-on gardening activities. Whew!
  • APS partnered with the Wylde Center in Edgewood to complete 11 school-wide taste tests featuring local produce, including corn salad and mango avocado salsa.
  • In 2019, 52 kindergarten classes visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which features an edible garden exhibit. The Wylde Center in the Edgewood Community Garden hosted 41 class field trips, which featured chickens, a pollinator garden, a rain garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, mushroom logs and compost bins. The Wylde Center also visited more than 500 classrooms and school gardens.
  • Lunch at APS includes a daily vegetarian entree and a daily salad bar, known as the APS Salad Bowl, which includes locally grown vegetables.

Dr. Hughes and her team accepted the honor during a special event earlier this month at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Thanks to Dr. Hughes, her team and everyone with SFE for such great work!

Meanwhile, I’ll keep bragging about our Nutrition Department – our chefs and cafeteria staffs – and I’ll keeping eating – and rating – our school food with our students all year long.


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