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Raleigh, NC 27612-4934
phone: (919) 787-0534
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Reimagining School Meals

Reimagining School Meals is an opportunity to engage parents and community members in school meals. The goals of this project are:

  1. To increase understanding of school meal nutrition standards.
  2. To increase support of school meals.
  3. To understand perceptions of and priorities for school meals.
  4. To generate new ideas for nutritionally sound, compliant, and delicious school meals.

The Reimagining School Meals Event

Our first Reimagining School Meals event will be from 5:30pm-7:30pm on April 26 at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. Chef Sean Fowler, Chef Bo Peterson, Chef Regan Stachler, and Chef Jake Wood will be creating delicious and healthy school meals for fifty school meal advocates and parents to taste. Each meal will provide a serving of a healthy protein, a serving of vegetables, a serving of fruit, and a whole grain and will be made available for use in schools across North Carolina.

Chef Sean Fowler of Mandolin in Raleigh has a deep love for made-from-scratch meals and cooking with high quality, seasonal ingredients. While tending his family’s garden, licking spoons in his grandmothers’ kitchens, and hunting and fishing in the fields and streams of the Southeast with his father, he learned the bounty that North Carolina’s farms and waters provide, and their deep connection to the community. After attending culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Colorado, Fowler honed his skills at the legendary 3 Michelin Star Le Bernardin in New York City, and then as a chef at AAA, 5-Diamond Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC – both of whom put a premium on celebrating ingredients at their peak. In 2011, Fowler returned home to debut his own restaurant, where classic technique and North Carolina’s freshest ingredients would be at the center of the plate. Fowler puts a premium on locally sourced ingredients from nearby farms, including from his own Mandolin Farm.

Chef Bo Peterson of Primal in Durham grew up in a small town in Michigan. After spending time in Las Vegas and New York, Peterson has made North Carolina his home, along with his wife, Jessica, and two sons, Oscar and Magnus. Peterson is interested in giving a different perspective on how school lunches can be made.

Born and raised in Florida, Chef Regan Stachler has been working in professional kitchens for over twenty years.  In his early twenties, Regan rapidly worked his way up into leadership positions in several restaurants in Florida. This experience shaped his time in culinary school in NYC, and as he sought to further refine and develop his talent in some of the best restaurants in NYC.  Regan’s resume includes the famed Gramercy Tavern, Osteria del Circo (owned by the Maccioni family of Le Cirque), and Country (Geoffrey Zakarian).  Trained and experienced in the style of European cuisines, after relocating to the Triangle, Regan worked at Piedmont before opening Little Hen in 2012, an acclaimed restaurant which was awarded 4.5 stars by N&O reviewer, Greg Cox.  In 2013, Regan also founded a culinary pop up event concept – ChickenWire; events gather the Triangle’s best chefs to raise funds to benefit not-for-profit organizations. Since closing Little Hen in 2017, Regan founded a prepared foods and catering company – Hull Foods through which he also crafts pasta and is a vendor at local farmers markets.

Chef Jake Wood of 18 Seaboard in Raleigh grew up in Apex, NC and has family in Apex, New Hill, Moncure, Garner, and Winston-Salem. Before becoming the Executive Chef at 18 Seaboard, Wood created the food program and pokè menu at Raleigh Raw and was the head sushi chef at The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar in Raleigh. Wood credits his grandparents, who grew up poor on farms in the country, for his passion for seafood, barbeque, and southern farm-to-table cuisine.

Key Facts about School Meals in North Carolina

North Carolina’s traditional public schools are required to participate in the National School Lunch Program but the state provides very little funding for school meals. Most of their funding is coming from federal reimbursements and the reimbursement rates for free, paid and reduced-price meals are relatively low. The state provides a reimbursement of $0.30 per reduced price breakfast. School nutrition programs have to operate independently from the rest of the school system. They have to operate essentially as a private business. They are expected to cover all their expenses including the cost of food, labor, and indirect expenses such as water, which they pay to the school system itself.

For a reimbursable school meal, schools must offer a serving each of a meat or meat alternative, a grain, a vegetable, a fruit, and milk. Children must select three items, and one must be a fruit or a vegetable.

As of December 2017, 869,954 children ate school lunch in North Carolina. This makes North Carolina the seventh largest school nutrition program in the country. In 2017, preliminary data shows the National School Lunch Program made payments totaling $387,928,245 to North Carolina but this is not enough to provide the meals our children deserve.

Statewide 59.82% of children in North Carolina public schools were eligible for free or reduced priced lunches. Kids who qualify for free or reduced price meals get about 50% of their calories from school meals.

Read More about School Meals!