Sloppy joes and tater tots will have some tough competition in Georgia schools thanks to the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen.
As part of this new initiative, students from 10 schools have the opportunity to test recipes featuring Georgia-grown products and provide feedback.
“We have found that if students have a part in the decision of what they will be served, they tend to choose healthier choices,” says Misty Friedman, nutritional director at the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
Products used in the recipes are sourced from local producers who expressed interest in participating, or were chosen by the program or school.
“Many of the produce companies have established relationships with Georgia growers,” Friedman says. “Also, if the school systems wish to work with growers that they have established relationships, they may individually go through the bid process that is detailed through National School Lunch Program guidelines provided by the USDA.”
The chefs plan ahead by consulting a seasonal calendar that dictates the local produce they will have access to when the recipes hit cafeteria menus. The recipes are tested out of season, so the kitchens have ample time to perfect the dishes before they are approved for the cafeteria using local products.
“We will be following the seasonal availability of crops across Georgia,” Friedman says. “The final tested recipe will be released with all of the student feedback and nutritional analysis, and served during the crop’s peak harvest seasons, using Georgia-grown products.”
Although fresh vegetables may not seem as appealing as a side of fries, students participating in the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen take pride in the recipe selection process and are exposed to new, creative ways to eat healthy.