Johnston County Schools Introduces Meal Programs For Students

West Smithfield Elementary student Shennel Jones places a carton of peaches onto the Share Table.

Johnston County Public Schools has implemented new food programs at several schools, strengthening its dedication to providing nutritious meals and snacks to support the learning environment.

JCPS School Nutrition Services introduced Share Tables at West Smithfield Elementary and Grab-and-Go “After the Bell” kiosks at Four Oaks Elementary. Both initiatives seek to serve students who may still be hungry after regularly scheduled breakfast and lunch meal times during the school day.

West Smithfield Elementary has successfully piloted the Share Table program, which offers a place where students can place unopened food and drinks that they choose not to eat or drink. This provides an opportunity for other students to take additional helpings of food or beverages from the Share Table at no cost to them.

“Share tables are an innovative way to place wrapped or unopened items that students do not eat, so that others students who may still be hungry can have access to this additional food during their lunch period,” said Director of School Nutrition Dana Edwards. “The school can also deliver these items to classrooms for those that need a snack for the day. We are fortunate to have a group of staff at the school so involved in helping make this successful and monitoring the use of items on this cart. They see the need and are ready to jump in to help.”

The Share Table offers an opportunity for sharing items that would otherwise be discarded. The key to acceptable items is that they must be “non potentially hazardous foods,” meaning these items do not have to be time or temperature controlled for safety.

“Our staff came up with the process that we utilize based on state guidelines shared by Mrs. Edwards. I had the pleasure to deliver during snack time and the expressions from the students who may not have had a snack was touching, and they were so appreciative. It is a work in progress, and hopefully if more schools participate we may be able to collaborate with them,” said West Smithfield Principal Sharon Bryant. “As always, we are grateful for this opportunity to serve our students.”

According to Edwards, only items that came from the school’s cafeteria can be placed on Share Table. Items from home are not allowed.

Items that can be placed on the Share Table include:

  • Pre-packaged food that has not been opened or eaten
  • Unopened, wrapped or individually packaged food and beverages (excluding milk)
  • Fruits with inedible peel (example: orange or banana)
  • Fruits or vegetables with edible peel must be individually wrapped or in a sealed package

Edwards added that due to federal guidelines, staff are not allowed to take food from the cart.

West Smithfield Elementary Parent Involvement Assistant Alejandro Ceballos Ramos delivers items that were placed on the Share Table to students during snack time.

“The Share Table concept is much appreciated and a win-win for all involved. Not only does it reduce waste, but it addresses a common issue among growing young people with healthy appetites,” said Johnston County Board of Education Chairman Mike Wooten. “We appreciate School Nutrition for its initiative and West Smithfield for piloting this successful program.”

The second innovative meal program currently underway in JCPS is the Grab-and-Go Breakfast kiosks at Four Oaks Elementary. The district received a grant from the Governor’s Office in Partnership with No Kid Hungry School Breakfast Leadership Institute to implement the innovative program.

In January 2019, the Grab-and-Go kiosks will be stationed in the school’s hallways. Once students enter from the bus parking lot, there will be two kiosk locations serving breakfast meals. Students will take those meals back to their classroom to eat with other classmates.

The breakfast kiosk grant was one of several awards the JCPS School Nutrition team has recently received. The department was awarded the NC Going the Distance in Innovation for Summer Feeding award in 2017. In 2018 the department won the US Department of Agriculture Turnip the Beet Award for Summer Feeding.