Covid-19 changed the way food was served at The Learning Center Charter School for the first part of the 2020-21 school year. However, the school has made improvements that mean students will see a return to more of what they are used to for the remainder of the year.
The charter school serves breakfast and lunch to approximately 200 students daily. Prior to the pandemic restrictions, food was served via a serving line that offered both hot and cold options.
“The serving line will continue to work similarly to how it has in past years with a few changes,” said Hilary Ehlers, Nutrition Director at the school.
Ehlers explained that meals are served off the hot bar all while keeping social distancing in place. Students and staff are separated by Plexiglas windows across the entire hot bar. At the end of the line students receive their meal through a window in the Plexiglas. Before being served their milk of choice at the beginning of the line, students must sanitize their hands. Then one by one students receive their meals. Markers are placed on the floor to help students visualize the six foot distance they need to space between one another. The meals are packaged in a to go box and are taken back to the classroom to eat.
“Students will still receive the amazing and nutritious food as they have in past school years. Plus, our friendly nutrition staff will still be there to greet each student and ask about their day and give students a sense of normalcy at school again,” said Ehlers.
New menu items have been added including catfish po-boy sandwiches and chicken and cheese quesadillas. “Healthy food doesn’t have to come at the expense of great flavor,” said Ehlers.
The Learning Center Charter School Nutrition Department is excited to announce that the USDA has extended the summer free school meals waivers through the 2020-2021 school year.
The extension of the summer feeding waivers not only allows all students to eat school meals at no charge, but they also help ensure that nutrition programs have flexibility and adaptability when it comes to meal service during unanticipated closures.
The charter school nutrition program will continue to offer families that have elected complete virtual learning the option to do curbside pick-up of meals.
“It remains critical our students continue to receive healthy and nutritious food as our community continues to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Hilary Ehlers, Child Nutrition Director at the school.
Ehlers added that the waiver extension allows her team to focus on nourishing hungry children for success, rather than scrambling to process paperwork and verify eligibility in the midst of a pandemic.
“We are happy to see more and more of our students’ smiling faces during the lunch time as well as at curbside pick-up,” said Ehlers.
Ehlers added, “We would like to give a very special thank you to Dr. Lynn Harvey, Director of School Nutrition and District Operations for North Carolina, for all of her hard work in making sure these extensions and free meals to all children became a reality.”
The Learning Center Charter School, a tuition-free public charter school, continues to break ground with high-quality offerings in 21st century education. On-going facility improvements are designed for rich academic opportunities on this “future-ready” campus.
The Learning Center Charter School offers an E-STEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts/Agriculture, and Math) learning environment. Students are exposed across the curriculum to 3-D Printers, robotics and coding. The school’s education philosophy includes the belief that all young learners have the right to experience a broad, rich, and rigorous range of academics during the formative K-8 years. Additionally, the school offers an award-winning nutrition program, unique electives and extra-curricular opportunities. The school’s emphasis on healthy living, community involvement and high academic standards is designed to produce future-ready citizens. This tuition-free public charter school (K-8th) has NO district restrictions for North Carolina residents.
The school is on track to be an accredited O.W.L. (Open Way Learning) School later this summer. OWL is a framework that encourages educators to create and share best practices to help keep pace with a rapidly changing economy, society, and environment. OWL encourages educators to prioritize shared vision, distributed leadership, collaboration, freely exchanged knowledge, and innovation in creating customized solutions for learning communities. OWL serves an umbrella over the E-STEAM and PBL (Project Based Learning) foundation of the school. Additionally, fundamental principles of the school such as garden based learning, good nutrition and wellness, and a rich arts program that includes a well developed drama department fit under the OWL umbrella.
The Learning Center’s Montessori Blend Kindergarten program has proven to be a strong approach to instruction for even the youngest learners. “We’ve had consistent success with the feeder Montessori Program that is located on our school campus,” said Head of School, Ryan Bender.
More extras including Compacted Math classes for accelerated math students, daily PE for all grades, National Junior Honor Society, wrestling team, ARTrageous and artists-in-residency program, “Mini and Middle REAL” young entrepreneur program, Academically and Intellectually Gifted Program, and the after school program provide students with the opportunities to become all they can be. The school also boasts an upper grade CREW Program, in its fifth year of operation, which promotes character development, goal setting, and responsible behaviors.
Additionally, the school instituted an ECO Ed option several years ago offering a home school flex program. The ECO Ed program works with community partners to create adjustable, flexible schedules for families who want to spend more time together and still be connected with a school for instructional support. Having the ECO Ed option already in place made the sudden transition to remote learning in the spring of 2020 as a result of the global pandemic a smooth transition for both teachers and students as a whole. Having a system already in place resulted in rich and engaging lessons during the stay-at-home orders and kept students plugged into their teachers, classmates and education.
Designated as a “USDA Healthier U.S. School” (Silver Level), The Learning Center Charter School places a strong emphasis on its nutrition and exercise programs. The school also has a free breakfast and lunch program available for ALL students.
The charter school servesapproximately 200+ students and is open to both in and out-of-county students. There is no tuitionfor grades K through 8th. The school also features a Montessori private preschool, serving ages 3-5 years. After school programs are available for all ages. Summer Enrichment Programs such as Innovation Tech Camp and intervention programs are also offered.
To learn more about and to enroll your child at The Learning Center Charter School, visit www.naturallygrownkids.org or call (828)835-7240.
Offering well prepared, healthy food that nourishes students is a
cornerstone of the educational environment at The Learning Center Charter
School. Using locally grown produce is
icing on the cake.
The charter school is part of the NC Farm to School program which
affords the school ample opportunity and access to healthy North Carolina
The NC Farm to School program is run through the North Carolina Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Food Distribution. During the 2011-12 school year, the NC Farm
to School program delivered over one million dollars worth of NC produce to NC
schools, reaching 1,003,921 students in 1,599 schools.
NC Farm to
School gives North Carolina farms a viable market for their crops while
providing schools a local source of fresh, seasonal produce. Produce includes watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, apples, cucumbers, red potatoes,
grape tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, romaine lettuce, apple slices, collards,
sweet potatoes, strawberries, squash, zucchini and blueberries.
Hilary Ehlers, Child Nutrition Director at the school, said, “The Farm
to School program not only provides easy access to foods grown locally but also
opportunities for agriculture, nutrition and health education.”
Ehlers added that when a student makes the connection between
agriculture and food, they realize that food comes from a farmer and not
magically from the grocery store.
“Nutrition education is a key part of our mission at our school,” said Ehlers. “Our students tend vegetable gardens on campus and the produce we buy from local farmers through this program reinforces the lessons we teach daily.”
Want to know more about the nutrition program at The Learning Center Charter School? Fill out the form below and we will get in touch with you!
To celebrate, our nutrition staff is planning a week of “cultural tastings”. New foods and recipes will be introduced to students from around the world. Some of these new items will become regular features on our breakfast and lunch menus as well.
Do you want to know more about our awesome nutrition program? Fill out the form below and we will be in contact!
Over the years, the school has won numerous awards and recognition by the NC Department of Public Instruction for its dedication to maintaining the highest standards in child nutrition including Award of Excellence, Breakfast Champion Award, as well as the Silver Level Award from USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Program, and the Twentieth Annual “Best Practice Awards” in the categories of National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Food Distribution Program from the Southeast Regional Office of the USDA.
Hilary Ehlers, Child Nutrition Director at the school, notes that for the first time this fall, Montessori preschool students on the charter school campus will be offered meals through the school.
“We are excited that our Montessori preschool students will be eating the same delicious, nutritious meals that our kindergarten through eighth grade students have always enjoyed,” said Ehlers.
Breakfast will be served in the Dining Commons while lunch and snacks will be served directly to the Montessori classroom using the school’s moveable hotbox for delivery.
Ehlers added that she and the nutrition staff have great new menus lined up for the new school year that include some new and exciting foods. The nutrition team already has several weeks planned focusing on a food cultural exchange where foods from different parts of the world are served. “Offering foods from different cultures helps broaden our students’ taste bud horizons,” said Ehlers.
The Learning Center! Charter School has a long history of dedication to good nutrition and believes it is the cornerstone for building better students. With that high priority and commitment, it’s no surprise the school has won multiple awards over the years.
But, did you know that Chad Johnson, a member of our school nutrition support team, has an extensive collection of hats that he wears each day to school? You might now know . . . but I bet your student does!
Studies indicate that students who eat breakfast increase their math and reading scores and improve their cognitive speed and memory, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Students who are “fueled up” with a nutritious meal increase the chances that their mental and physical stamina is up to par for a great day at school.
The Learning Center Charter School celebrated National School Breakfast Week March 5th-9th both as a means to recognize the importance of this meal and to increase awareness of the school’s Early Bird Breakfast Club.
The Learning Center’s Early Bird Breakfast Club begins at 7:15am daily. The nutrition staff offers up both hot and cold breakfast options as well as cereal, fruit, yogurt and milk. The program was the first in the state to win the Breakfast Champion Award in 2012. Additionally, the program has received two grants – one from No Kid Hungry North Carolina/Share Our Strength, and another from Action for Healthy Kids School Grants for Healthy Kids.
As part of the week long breakfast celebration, the school marked the birthday of literary giant, Dr. Seuss. Kitchen staff wore Seuss costumes, the Dining Commons was decked out in Seuss colors and decorations and students were served green eggs and ham.
School Child Nutrition Director, Hilary Dixson, said, “Offering well prepared, healthy food that nourishes our young learners is a cornerstone of our educational environment. National School Breakfast Week was a way to teach the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast and the silly costumes and green eggs and ham made it fun and memorable for our students.”
School nutrition managers from across the state are participating in the North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute. Jamie Chapman, from The Learning Center! Charter School participated in a K-12 Culinary Institute regional workshop August 2nd – 4th, 2016 at Cherokee Central Elementary School. The N.C. K-12 Culinary Institute, designed to enhance nutrition offerings, is funded by a U.S. Department of AgricultureProfessional Standards Training Grant received by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) School Nutrition Section.
“The K-12 Culinary Institute is a unique opportunity for school nutrition professionals to enhance culinary skills and glean tools and information critical to their important roles in providing quality, nutritious school meals,” said Susan Blomeley, director for The Learning Center School Nutrition Program.
The face-to-face and virtual institute was developed by the NCDPI, School Nutrition Section, and Chef Cyndie Story’s K-12 Culinary Team, in order to meet five core objectives:
– Improve student health, well-being and academic success through nutritious, appealing meals at school,
– Increase participation in high quality, enticing school nutrition programs,
– Expand capacity of local school nutrition programs to purchase, prepare and serve fresh, locally grown produce,
– Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grain-rich foods, and
– Provide continuing education opportunities for school nutrition personnel.
North Carolina K-12 Culinary Institute graduates become chef ambassadors prepared to teach other school nutrition professionals at the local level.
The Learning Center has a long history of placing an emphasis on good nutrition as part of its overall mission – growing some of its own food for educational purposes that provide activities that support the E-STEAM curriculum (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).