North Carolina’s top expert in school nutrition will travel to Washington, D.C. this week to testify before Congress as the federal government decides whether to overhaul the programs that feed millions of children each day.
Lynn Harvey, chief of the state’s child nutrition services, will be asked to share successes in North Carolina school-meal programs and the challenges in meeting new standards for nutrition set by the federal government.
It’s unclear whether Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will get a mention from Harvey in either category, but the district has a case.
Harvey has championed innovative school breakfast programs across the state, an issue CMS has tackled aggressively. The district established universal free breakfast across all of its campuses two years ago and later brought in a team from UNC-Chapel Hill to study how CMS could make it more effective.
Some practices Charlotte schools have experimented with include “grab-and-go” breakfasts children eat in the classroom and rerouting bus drop-off locations to get students to pass through the cafeteria.
The average number of breakfasts served per day has increased about 17 percent since the 2012-13 school year.
Harvey has also described North Carolina’s summer meal programs as “dismal.” CMS has one of the state’s largest such programs, at 52 schools currently, with plans to expand.
Harvey could also point out challenges CMS has had with new nutrition standards. One requirement, for example, requires all grains used in its food to be whole grains. The district had a hard time finding suppliers for things like whole-grain biscuits – and the children don’t really like them anyway.
The series of hearings comes as Congress debates re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which governs school breakfast and lunch programs, as well as summer meals and other supplemental nutrition programs. The legislation is up for renewal every five years.
Harvey will be joined by several other experts, including nutrition specialists in districts in New York, Ohio, California, Kentucky and Nebraska.
She’ll brief the U.S. House at 11 a.m. Thursday and the Senate at 2 p.m.