USDA visits Ashley Ridge

  • Thursday, September 5, 2013

Officials from the USDA and state DOE enjoy a typical Ashley Ridge High School lunch made with fresh local products. Clockwise from left, Keith Ringer and Sydney Daigle, South Carolina Department of Education, Office of Nutrition Program; Samantha Benjamin-Kirk and Kirk Farquharson, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The menu included shrimp gumbo, garden salad, roll and dessert and was enjoyed by students as well as visiting dignitaries. A.M. SHEEHAN/JOURNAL SCENE


The USDA, Food and Nutrition Service staff, visited Ashley Ridge High School Tuesday, September 3, as part of a trip to spotlight Farm to School initiatives in South Carolina and develop a training program on procurement.
“We're going to be doing a procurement training,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Senior Program Specialist Samantha Benjamin-Kirk. “The training is so schools will know how to get good, local produce that meets all the USDA requirements.” Ashley Ridge already does just that and are state leaders in the move to buy local.
The South Carolina Farm to School Program is a collaborative effort between the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, SC Department of Agriculture, SC Department of Education, and Clemson University.
Ashley Ridge High School is one of more than 100 schools in South Carolina to participate in the South Carolina Farm to School Program.  As a grantee, Ashley Ridge High School agrees to 1) source at least two SC grown fruits and vegetables per month to be served in the school cafeteria; 2) promote SC Grown in the school cafeteria; 3) integrate nutrition and agriculture education into classroom curriculum; and 4) establish a school vegetable garden.
Ashley Ridge has grown its program into a community household name.  Its half-acre garden was started four years ago as a therapeutic outlet for special needs classes.  Now, teachers use the garden as an educational tool across the school curriculum, from Geometry to Advanced Placement Biology.
Self-contained classes still have a special role in maintaining the school garden.  They manage a business that sells the 3,000 plus pounds to garden produce back to the school cafeteria.
A few years ago, Ashley River became the first school garden in the state to become GAP – Good Agricultural Practices – certified. This food safety certification allows the cafeteria to purchase and serve the school-grown produce to students for lunch.
"It comes to us pesticide free and it's picked the very same day that it's consumed," said Debi Filomarino, the School Food Service manager at Ashley Ridge.
Ashley Ridge had gumbo on the menu for September 3.  “The Gumbo was made with our Swamp Fresh produce: pesticide-free tomatoes and okra picked the very same day it's consumed,” said Filomarino.
USDA, DD2 and state Department of Education, Office of Nutrition representatives enjoyed a meal of shrimp gumbo, garden salad and dessert – the same meal served to students – sourced locally and prepared fresh in the ARHS kitchens under the leadership of Filomarino.
DD2 has seen a positive response to its fresh and healthy school meals.  Staff trainings, like Filomario's recent “Reducing Sodium through using Herbs and Spices” and student promotion has ensured high quality meals are served and consumed by students.
For more information about the South Carolina Farm to School Program, contact Holly Harring at harrinha@dhec.sc.gov">harrinha@dhec.sc.gov or (203) 209-8127.

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