Charter School Extends Free School Meals

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.”

Learning About Bees & Honey

A local beekeeper made this video for our elementary grade students to learn about how honey is collected from a bee hive. Our community partners, like this awesome beekeeper, are a valuable tool in educating and engaging our students in countless ways. We couldn’t do all that we do with out them. Thank you!

Why do we emphasize Garden Based Learning?

Students at TLC aren’t strangers to getting their hands dirty.  Why?  Because gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn.

Gardens are living laboratories where our students learn everything from team work to food production and lessons can be taught across the curriculum.

Gardening encourages students to become active participants in the learning process.

Although our students were not on campus this spring to bring our gardens to life, Ms. Emily was sure to still plant flowers and vegetables to beautiful our campus during the global pandemic.

National School Lunch Week Oct 14th – 18th

Did you know that the week of October 14-18th is National School Lunch Week? It is!

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!

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1st Grade Science — All About Plants

First graders have been learning all about plants and what they need to survive. They have experimented with germinating radish seeds which created much excitement! They even transplanted their radish sprouts into the garden for a future fall harvest.

School Kitchen Works to Reduce Waste

(From left) Chad Johnson, Alaina Wright, Hilary Dixson, Robyn Dyer, and Lori Anderson, kitchen staff at The Learning Center Charter School, work diligently to reduce waste at the school. This fun crew also goes above and beyond to provide a fun dining experience as seen by the Luau they threw for lunch last May.

The Learning Center Charter School knows that good nutrition is the very foundation for building better students.  The school also knows that reducing waste is equally as important for the planet.

For all meals at the charter school, students eat healthy, freshly prepared foods served on real china and silverware. All meals are eaten family style and the school uses as much food from local sources as possible.

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.

In addition to the emphasis of healthy eating, Hilary Dixson, Child Nutrition Director at the school, is equally dedicated to the reduction of waste in the school’s food program.  This focus includes reducing wasted food as well as wasted resources.

Kitchen staff has reworked recipes to reduce general food waste which include items on the daily salad bar. With the “offer vs. serve” approach, students get to choose items they prefer to eat rather than food being plated and wasted.  The school adheres to federal and state guidelines that require some food must be plated regardless of preference.

“We take waste reduction seriously around here,” said Dixson. “For example, our previous use of to-go paper cups has been eliminated to cut back on waste. Reusable water cups and real coffee mugs, in my opinion, change the mood on campus and make school a homier place to be.”

Our Students Garden Year Round

gardeningatTLC Dec 2017

Students at The Learning Center Charter School maintain a vegetable garden on campus which has them working in the dirt all school year long.  Kindergarten through eighth grade students at the school do everything in the garden from weeding, planting, watering and harvesting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.


Gardening and agriculture have always been important at the school.  Director, Mary Jo Dyre, believes that gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. “Gardens are living laboratories where our students learn everything from team work to food production and lessons can be taught across the curriculum,” says Dyre.


In September, students planted turnip seeds as part of their winter garden. In December, students excitedly harvested the turnips and learned that the root and greens are edible. All of these young gardeners were given a hearty serving to take home, while others eagerly ate their turnip raw.


Emily Willey, elementary science and outdoor learning coordinator at the charter school, makes gardening a regular part of the daily routine for students at the school. “Playing an active role in food production teaches young people everything from agriculture to nutrition. These kids love seeing the fruits of their labor and are willing to eat unfamiliar vegetables as a result.”

Let’s Turnip the Beet!


Earlier this Spring, these students harvested the beets that they planted as seed in the garden. Ms. Emily took them home and cooked them for the students to eat as well. Growing vegetables is an important way to get young kids interested in where their food comes and try new foods. Way to go students!

School Maker Faire Spotlights 3rd Generation BBQ Smoker, March 9


The Learning Center! Charter School is celebrating “making” of all kinds at their 2nd annual School Maker Faire on Thursday, March 9 from 3:30 – 7:30. Imagine a science fair, craft show, tech conference, and county fair, all rolled into one and you can picture a Maker Faire. Over 70 Makers – from Learning Center students to community members – will have booths featuring their own unique Maker project. There will be hands-on activities, demonstrations, a costume parade, and delicious homemade food from “Meal Makers”.

One of these Meal Makers is local Jimmy Nix, who will be offering his signature hardwood-smoked pork. “The smoker has been in my family for three generations,” said Nix. Herbert Nix, Jimmy’s father, adapted the design from his own father’s smoker, and used it for years before passing the rig on to Jimmy.

Each Nix generation has tinkered with the design of the smoker to create the perfect environment for low and slow cooking. This generations-long Maker project is mainly comprised of “up-cycled” materials – objects that have been reclaimed from their original use to create something new. “The main compartment of the smoker is essentially a 500 gallon propane tank,” Nix explained. “Connected to that is a Papa Bear Fisher wood stove for the firebox, and the axle for the wheels is from an old Chevy Vega.”

As with any good barbeque family, the Nix meat rub is also a constantly evolving Maker project. The family recipe spice blend is continually being tweaked in some way with a pinch of this or a touch of that.

“I never cook for a profit,” says Nix. “I prefer to cook at community events where people are just enjoying being together and eating good food.” The Nix family has cooked for many weddings, church events, and most recently, the Cherokee County Faire.

The Learning Center is an official host of the second annual School Maker Faire open to the Murphy area. The event will be held at the school on Thursday, March 9th, from 3:30 – 7:30 pm. Enjoy a delicious plate of hardwood-smoked pork that is three generations in the making. All proceeds from Jimmy’s booth will go to the school’s Odyssey of the Mind teams, who have placed high-enough in regionals to go on to the state-level competition this spring. Contact The Learning Center for more at 828-835-7240.