By Jessica Farrish
Raleigh County Board of Education members on Tuesday said the success of a nutrition program aimed at improving student health is making progress but will depend on continued support of parents.
Every elementary child in the county may eat a free breakfast and lunch at school, under a new federal program that Raleigh County Schools implemented this academic year.
“We have made a significant financial commitment to this program, feeding every elementary child in Raleigh County,” said BOE member Richard Jarrell. “Every administrator, every teacher, everybody in this system has to embrace that.
“We can’t make this work if everybody doesn’t take hold to it,” he added. “We can’t stress that enough.”
So far, Raleigh Schools Child Nutrition Director Teresa Baker reported, the program has shown success.
“We’re up 70 percent, daily average, for lunches,” said Baker.
Baker said that at Clear Fork and Mabscott elementary schools, 86 and 80 percent of students, respectively, eat breakfast at school.
Since adding a “grab and go” breakfast program just two weeks ago, Woodrow Wilson High School staff has already seen a two percent increase in breakfast service.
Two dinner programs are also being added to the seven that already exist in the county, added Baker.
“They are increasing every day, as far as breakfast (service),” added Baker.
The discussion took a turn toward whole wheat versus white bread when Baker mentioned that some parents don’t want their kids to eat the whole wheat bread and bun served in the school lunches.
“Parents don’t want their kids eating wheat?” BOE President Richard Snuffer echoed.
“How many (parents) could that be?” Superintendent Jim Brown asked.
Whole wheat bread is recommended by health experts, since whole wheat bread is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.
Whole wheat breads also offer more fiber and protein and help keep blood sugar levels constant.
White bread, on the other hand, is more processed and doesn’t have the fiber and germ that delivers health benefits.
Brown said if he was allowed to serve white bread, he’d see more students eating lunch.
BOE member Richard Jarrell, who also owns two Chick-fil-A franchises, agreed he sells “30 white buns” for every wheat bun.
Snuffer encouraged parents to have their children try a piece of fruit and a piece of whole wheat bread from the lunch line each day, even if they are packing a lunch from home.
“I never knew what wheat bread was,” he shared. “It never crossed my lips til I was 30 years old.
“Of course, a lot of other stuff did, as you can see,” he said. “But once I started eating (wheat), I liked it.
“If they bring ... their lunch, I’d still encourage them to go through and get a piece of fruit and wheat bread,” he said.
Brown said even if kids aren’t eating lunch at school, every child should be eating breakfast.
“So often we forget why we do what we do,” said Brown. “The goal was to create a healthy lifestyle.”
Brown said research shows that breakfast is the most critical meal of the day.
“If you’re going to eat any meal any single day, the breakfast is the most critical,” he said. “If kids aren’t eating, and they’re getting on the bus ... and they don’t eat anything till lunchtime ... first, their health is being affected, and second, are they benefiting from the instruction?
“We want healthy kids,” he said. “We want them to be educated, be prepared, so when they graduate, they’re college ready.”
In other actions, attendance director Millard Francis reported countywide attendance this school year has been around 95 percent — a figure that is higher than last year’s attendance rate.
Randy Adkins, director of human resources for Raleigh schools, reported 95 percent of teachers in Raleigh schools are “highly qualified teachers,” who have teaching certificates and who have met requirements to be certified in the subject matter they’re teaching.
Snuffer praised Raleigh Schools Treasurer Darrin Butcher and Director of Purchasing Phillip Jarrell for balancing and growing the budget.
Total expenditures for last year were $142.6 million, with carry-over monies.
“When I came on board, this board didn’t have money to fix the roof that was leaking,” said Snuffer. “We’re doing good.”
A special board meeting on presentation of the current levy and facility bond history is set for Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m.
The regular BOE meeting on Oct. 8 will be held at 4:30 p.m., followed by a special board meeting at 5:30 p.m.
Brown said there has been interest in organizing committees to oversee issues related to the levy and bond.
Principals of schools ranked as “success” schools under new state guidelines were honored, and the new iRaleigh logo, designed by Bradley Elementary art teacher Julie Midkiff, was presented for the first time.
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