BURKE COUNTY, Ga. – “When you have the First Lady on your side, that just so magnifies everything. My passion and her passion are exactly the same.”
Donna Martin’s passion is food: cooking it, eating it and teaching young people how to make healthy choices and fuel their bodies for life.
Michelle Obama chose Burke County as a stop for the First lady’s American Garden tour because of the success of Martin’s farm-to-school nutrition program. More than a dozen local farmers held feed 89% of the county’s students every day.
“I will guarantee that if you grow these foods then we will buy them from you. So, they all started to say what we can do? We can do broccoli, carrots. And it just started growing from there.”
The school will have fress peppers and cucumbers growing soon, thanks to some special help planting this season’s garden from Mrs. Obama. School lunch in Waynesboro is not the processed pizza and tater tots you may remember, but fresh, homemade meals with many foods coming straight from local farms.
“When you get it fresh and it hasn’t been frozen, it just tastes so much better. When you have the food taste better, the kids are going to eat it. We also scratch cook. And it is cheaper than buying processed everything. So we just buy local. It lasts longer in the coolers and refrigerators.”
The staff is serving more than lunch, too. Burke County schools offer breakfast and even supper. A program that’s helped generate a 94% graduation rate and a more successful athletics program; plain and simple. The players, in a county with an 85% poverty rate, were struggling with hunger.
“And our athletes have done such a great job with the supper program because they’ve been able to build muscles.”
Donna Martin has so many letters in her title, it practically covers the alphabet. But it’s not the education and accolades that matter most to this mother and grandmother, it’s impacting children’s lives far beyond her own family.
“You know… are we reaching every single kid? No. But we are making a difference in a lot of their lives. And I know that they’re taking it home and their parents are changing some of the ways they’re eating. And that’s lifelong. That is lifelong for them.”
For her success in growing a better way to feed local children and engaging the whole community in the process, Donna Martin is a News Channel 6 Woman to Watch.
More big things are on the way for Martin. In June, she will take over as president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a national organization.