Moving beyond chicken nuggets

In response to parents’ concerns over the quality and nutrition of food served in Asheville City Schools for breakfast and lunch, the Hall Fletcher Parent Teacher Organization’s Nutrition Committee will host a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at Hall Fletcher Elementary. Beth Palien, nutrition director for Asheville City Schools, will address parents’ and teachers’ concerns about the nutritional value of food served at lunch and in breakfast programs of Asheville schools.

According to Misty Miller, chair of the Nutrition Committee and vice president of the Hall Fletcher PTO, Hall Fletcher Elementary’s universal breakfast program serves breakfast to every student, free of charge. “It’s a good program,” Miller says, “but it has places where it needs to be improved.” Children are often served highly processed foods, Miller says, which act as empty calories for kids who are expected to focus during the school day. “There’s no protein in breakfast unless it’s milk or yogurt,” Miller says, and even then, the yogurt is high in sugar and artificial dyes. “We have ideas about making small changes, and maybe down the road some big changes, to get minerals, vitamins and the right kind of calories to our kids.”

The Nutrition Committee, formed last fall, has been working closely with Palien to discuss ways to change the breakfast and lunch menus for Asheville schools. “[Palien] has been so open and cooperative and willing to help educate us as to what it takes to create a menu,” Miller says. Palien is currently creating the menu for the next school year and must submit it by the end of the month, so Miller hopes a parent committee will develop from the community meeting to recommend suggestions to replace the processed foods with whole foods. 

More intentional choices for the menu will not only result in healthier children, but also in better-performing students, Miller says. “In addressing the achievement gap, we have to approach nutrition first,” she says. “Teachers have noted what happens when you give a kid a honey bun. In 15 minutes they’re bouncing off the wall and in an hour you can’t get their head off of their desk.”


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