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Revolutionizing school lunches in rural North Carolina

Posted Sunday, January 12, 2014

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Pittsboro, NC – Given the low per-meal allowance for school lunches and breakfasts, how can schools afford to serve locally grown, sustainably produced food?

If we're concerned about the epidemic of childhood obesity, why do we offer cupcakes and other unhealthy options in school cafeterias?

The Abundance Foundation’s upcoming Cafeteria Man Expert Panel Discussion on January 13 at Chatham Community Library aims to answer these questions. The panel features some heavy hitters in the North Carolina’s realm of healthy food access to discuss the documentary Cafeteria Man and how we can revolutionize the way we serve school lunches in our 17 public schools in Chatham County, and beyond.

Short clips will be shown from documentary Cafeteria Man, a film focused on the transformation of Baltimore Public School’s lunch and breakfast program, followed by a panel discussion including: Tony Geraci (“Cafeteria Man”), Alice Ammerman DrPH, RD (Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill), Debbie Roos (Chatham County Agricultural Cooperative Extension), Meredith Leight (Farmer/Owner of Granite Springs Farm), Heather Barnes (NC Department of Agriculture), and a middle School Student from Chatham County.

Abundance Foundation is bringing this enlightened and outside-of-the-box fellow, Tony Geraci, to Chatham County to discuss with local stakeholders how we might look at child nutrition in a different light. The panel will discuss the challenges we face here in North Carolina, hear from the nutrition staff and the agricultural community, and leave with some fresh ideas of tackling the huge issues in child nutrition.

The Cafeteria Man event is a piece of Abundance Foundation’s overall Children's Sustainability program, which includes Chef Challenge projects (started in 2011) to improve school lunches and awareness about healthy eating and local food access in Chatham County, along with their ongoing kid's sustainability tours helping youth learn hands-on about renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

Anthony Geraci, or Tony as he is called by his peers, is a chef and Food Service Consultant. He is the former Director of Food and Nutrition for Baltimore public schools. Tony is a native of New Orleans and a third generation restaurateur who did a traditional apprenticeship with four star hotels and restaurants in the U.S. Tony’s inspiration for cooking comes from helping his grandmother in the kitchen as a child.

Tony is currently the Director of Nutrition Services for Shelby County Schools, TN where he serves over 160,000 children in 221 schools. Since his arrival, the Breakfast in the Classroom program has more than doubled. He has implemented the At-Risk Supper Meal Program which provides meals to after school programs. The At-Risk Supper Program is the first for the State of Tennessee. Tony has expanded the Farm to School program as well. Schools are serving more locally grown produce as a direct result of his grass roots efforts. Fresh fruits and vegetables are offered as a healthy choice for all children every day. Chef salads are made fresh daily and delivered to all school sites from the central kitchen that Tony oversees. The central kitchen bakes bread from scratch and various cook-chill items.

Tony has been a trailblazer for providing healthier options for children. His mission is to place healthy children in front of educators ready to learn.

The Abundance Foundation, headquartered in Pittsboro, brings people together to create more resilient North Carolina communities through local food, renewable energy, community events, and any way we can.


Cafeteria Man Expert Panel Discussion
January 13th, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Chatham Community Library, Mary Hayes Holmes Room
197 North Carolina 87
Pittsboro, NC 27312

RSVP (limited seating available!)

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Revolutionizing school lunches in rural North Carolina