After a weekend spent toasting our newest college graduates, we are reminded that these are the impressive, hard-working students that must lead us to great things in the future. In Athens-Clarke County, we are fortunate to have schools and community leaders that are focused on teaching our young people how to handle environmental change and even more importantly, how to be environmentally aware. 

Last week, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at Clarke Middle School Wick Pritchard asked “How will young people become the leaders that society needs to adapt to environmental change?” Clarke Middle is a high-needs, high-achieving public school right here in Athens, Georgia with a focus on answering this question through its curriculums. They are focused on resource management–from the garden to the kitchen to the trash can.

And this is just a piece of the food-forward thinking happening in Athens.

At this year’s Georgia Organics Conference, Chef Hugh Acheson took the stage as keynote speaker with a message–let’s get back to the kitchen! For the man who molded the food scene in a small town to a place of national recognition, it’s time to help reclaim Home Economics. He envisions a program that is equally modern and timeless with a focus on practical knowledge like family and community relations, sewing, small repairs, proper cleaning techniques, finances, pickling, preserving, fermenting, basic nutrition, importance of food safety, simple salad dressings, egg cookery, cooking on a budget, home gardening, cooking rice and grains, and properly cooking meat and seafood. It’s the skills that once were learned by necessity at home.  

Last month, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, the Clarke County School District, the Athens Land Trust, Athens Farm to School and UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences partnered to engage the Athens community with the past, present, and future of the National School Lunch Program. From our restaurants to our public school cafeterias, the community now expects to know where our food is coming from and craves the healthy lifestyle that comes from good nutrition and a local-centric diet. 

At the initiative’s School Lunch Challenge, The National took home the prize with our deluxe chicken, brown rice, and quinoa burrito - a fresh and healthy yet filling meal in accordance with all the USDA guidelines for the National School Lunch Program. We look forward to seeing this plate in monthly rotation in all Athens Clarke County public school lunches during the 2015-2016 school year!

In Athens, we are proud to stand behind our young people by giving them the tools and the education to affect positive change from their small community and beyond. You can see it in our chefs, our farmers, our teachers, our leaders, our politicians, our waste reduction champions, and even in our children, these days. 

Read the full article “Lessons in a Trash Can” on Washington Post at