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.
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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.
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.”
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.”
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!
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.
A few weeks ago, students in first grade spent time preparing the fall garden by planting spinach. Gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. Gardens are living laboratories and these students were more than happy to get their hands dirty!
Everyone knows the importance of a good breakfast. Bottom line, students who are “fueled up” with a nutritious meal are increasing the chances that their mental and physical stamina is up to par for a great day at school.
The Learning Center! Charter School joins more than 18,000 schools across the nation with assistance from a federal program called, Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP allows schools in low-income areas to offer breakfast and lunchat no charge to all students while eliminating the traditional school meal application process.
Authorized as a part of Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, CEP eliminates the burden of collecting household applications to determine eligibility for school meal programs and reduces the potential stigma associated with free meals. No household application means less paperwork for parents, and no worries about lunch accounts.
“For the school it means reduced paperwork and administrative costs,” said Susan Blomeley, Nutrition Director at The Learning Center. “There is no need to track unpaid meal charges and more nourished students are ready to learn and grow.”
The Learning Center’s Early Bird Breakfast Club was created in an effort to give every opportunity for all students to eat a healthy breakfast. Since early 2000, The Learning Center! Charter School has offered a Universal Breakfast where all students eat for free. The big news this year is that all students will now get a free lunch in addition to the free breakfast. The school will not take free and reduced applications this year, as all students will eat free.