Carrollton City Schools receive $30,000 USDA grant

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Carrollton City Schools receive $30,000 USDA grant
The nutrition program at Carrollton City Schools was the only school system in Georgia awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month, receiving more than $30,000 for its Farm to School initiative.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to be trailblazers,” Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards said. “So this is just great. It’s always been part of our character and one of our objectives to try for these types of grants.”Edwards said the grant is a credit to the leadership of the nutrition program for the system, led by Director Linette Dodson.

“We are very proud of this and look forward to the community involvement we will enjoy because of it,” Dodson said. “This won’t be fueled only by our nutritionists. We want to make it a community-fueled approach.”

The first-ever USDA Farm to School grants will help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increased market opportunities for producers and food businesses. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes.

The department is awarding more than $4.5 million in grants for 68 projects, spanning 37 states and the District of Columbia, to connect school cafeterias with local agricultural producers.

“When schools buy food from nearby producers, their purchasing power helps create local jobs and economic benefits, particularly in rural agricultural communities,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “Evidence also suggests that when kids understand more about where food comes from and how it is produced, they are more likely to make healthy eating choices.”

Dodson said the grant — amounting to $30,675 — will be used to purchase equipment for storage needs of locally grown foods and preparation needs.

The director also said some money will be used for taste-testing events with students and promotional items

“We are going to reach out to local chefs to come in and show us ways to cook with local ingredients,” Dodson said.

The grant was offered to three entities: school systems, farmers and cooperatives. Two types of grants were awarded, in planning and implementation categories. Carrollton City Schools was awarded a planning grant, but Dodson said that doesn’t mean it’s all just ideas in their heads.

“You have to show something tangible,” Dodson said. “Se we had to prove that we were starting some initiatives now.”

Three grants were given in Georgia — two were to cooperatives, and one to a school system, Carrollton. Dodson said she believes 32 school systems nationwide were awarded the grant.

Edwards said he is excited to see the Farm to School program operate in two helpful ways.

“It will serve students in educating them about healthy eating habits, and it will serve as a cooperative in an important piece of our West Georgia economy, the agricultural community,” Edwards said. “It seemed like a natural fit for us.”

As far as how the system was awarded the grant, Dodson said she felt like their record of promoting healthy eating habits was a major factor.

“Now, we’re trying to take it to the next level, which is locally grown food, not food that comes from Oregon or California or somewhere,” Dodson said. “We want to look at the options we have here in the community.”

Edwards said the program will benefit more than just city school students and parents, though.

“Grants are funded to take the information and push it to other schools and into the community,” he said. “Anytime we can raise awareness about the lifetime benefits of healthy eating, we do.”

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