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JCPS celebrates National School Lunch Week with State Superintendent

Johnston County Public Schools celebrated National School Lunch Week with a special visit from North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson at the McGee’s Crossroads Elementary cafeteria on Oct. 17.

This year’s theme for National School Lunch Week, observed Oct. 15-19, is “Lots 2 Love.”  Each of the JCPS cafeterias planned special menus and initiatives for students to participate in throughout the week.

Tammy Baker, School Nutrition Manager for McGee’s Crossroads Elementary, invited Johnson to visit her school’s cafeteria on Wednesday to see the amazing opportunities provided for students.

“Every year I try to think outside of the box when it comes to National School Lunch Week. This year I decided to invite the State Superintendent,” said Baker. “We are so excited that he’s here. This lets our kids and staff know that we’re important here in Johnston County.”

Johnson worked alongside the McGee’s Crossroads Elementary school nutrition staff to serve students a “BBQ Pitmaster” themed lunch, which included their choice of pulled-pork barbeque, chicken wings, carrot souffle, coleslaw, hush puppies, and dinner rolls.

“This is a great staff. They’re really dedicated to the work they do, and they know how important it is,” said Johnson. “I really appreciated taking a turn being in the food line serving those hundreds of little ones that came through. It’s a hard job, and it’s an important job.”

Johnson was also able to sit down and share a meal with the students after he served them.

“I was happy to be able to sit down and explain to them that the lunch they ate actually helps their brain grow just like it helps their body grow,” said Johnson. “After they eat a full lunch they’re able to go into the classroom, and they’re better prepared to learn.”

Baker said her cafeteria can serve up to 1,000 meals on an average day between breakfast and lunch. She hopes the special menu items during National School Lunch Week will entice even more students to come through her lunch line.

“I hope this week will broaden our students’ views on meals that are served in the cafeteria. Most of the time if we can just get them to try it, they’ll realize they like it,” said Baker. “We love when more students come through our line, so we can interact with them and build relationships.”

Dana Edwards, Director of School Nutrition for Johnston County Public Schools, works with all of the district’s cafeterias to create innovative and exciting ways to prepare meals for students.

“The cafeteria workers play such an important role in our student’s lives,” said Edwards. “I love seeing the smiles on the kids faces and knowing we’ve given them something they’re actually excited about eating.”

Lynn Harvey, Chief of School Nutrition Services for the Department of Public Instruction, also visited the school’s cafeteria with Johnson to celebrate National School Lunch Week. Harvey stressed the importance of providing healthy options for students to enjoy.

“We know that when students are adequately nourished they perform better in the classroom, are more likely to be alert, more likely to concentrate, and they score better standardized tests,” said Harvey. “Breakfast and lunch at school helps to make the difference for our children.”  

PHOTO: McGee’s Crossroads Elementary School Nutrition Manager Tammy Baker (left) assists North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson (right) with his apron and chef’s hat during National School Lunch Week.