By Morgan Smith
While students have been hanging in the pool or attending summer camp, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Child Nutrition Services staff have been working to ensure breakfast and lunch menus are ready to go.
With the recent approval of the universal breakfast program – which will provide free breakfast to all CMS students – Amy Harkey, assistant director of CMS Child Nutrition, said the department is excited to get kids back in the cafeteria and expand programs that were launched last school year.
The United States Department of Agriculture introduced new standards in 2012 for school lunch programs, adding more servings of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. While students adapted fairly well, Harkey said, practicing the standards at home could be beneficial to students when school kicks off Aug. 26.
“I would encourage parents to provide fruits and vegetables, especially seasonal fruits,” Harkey said. “I think going to a farmers market with kids is fun … to have them pick out something and help prepare it, like cutting up and cleaning celery.”
Harkey said it’s also a good idea to incorporate whole grain into a child’s diet, as many students are not used to the different taste and color. Harkey suggests that parents with new students entering the district should make sure their kids know what to expect from the school cafeteria.
In partnership with schools that have working gardens, CMS Child Nutrition also is working on an initiative in the school year. When it’s time for harvest, the department will work with schools to incorporate local produce on the lunch menu, a practice Harkey encourages parents to use at home.
Harkey said gardening with kids is beneficial – even if the “garden” is a couple of plants in a two-gallon bucket.
“The kids that get involved in gardening, even if it is just in a big pot, are more interested in trying (vegetables) when it’s time to get picked. When they participate, they take ownership of that meal,” she said.