Georgia Organics, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting sustainable foods and local farms in the state, has teamed with the Cherokee County Farm Bureau to expand the Farm to School program in the county.
The national program brings food from local farms into schools and includes other partnerships. Shirley Pahl, program coordinator for the farm bureau, said other current Farm to School activities in Cherokee include offering students farm tours, holding farm days at local schools and helping schools plant gardens on their campuses.
"The benefit is to teach children where their food comes from and the benefits of healthy eating," she said about the program.
Erin Croom, the Farm to School coordinator for Georgia Organics, said partners can tailor their programs to teach children about local food production.
"If (children) have an opportunity to grow food and taste, they are more likely to eat it," she said.
More Georgia-grown food has been added to county school cafeterias in the last six months as a result of the program, she said.
The Cherokee County School District is a partner in the initiative. Linda Dittrich, the school district's nutrition coordinator, said this school year it began offering Georgia-grown produce including watermelon, zucchini, squash, apples, cabbage and carrots on its cafeteria menus.
"There are a lot of excited people and a lot of opportunities," she said, adding students benefit from the partnership by getting fresher produce to eat at school.
Stakeholders will meet again this month to continue their talks on how to expand the program.
Liz Porter of Hickory Flat, a Cherokee County Master Gardener participating in the program, said one idea is allowing community gardens to be planted at schools.
"They grow up healthier, stronger and brighter," she said of how students benefit from eating more locally grown produce. "It makes sense."