NC PTAs and Their Role in Food Desert Solutions
The North Carolina Parent Teacher Association (NCPTA) applauds and supports the inclusion of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) in both the findings and recommendations that were adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly’s House Legislative Research Commission (LRC) Committee on Food Desert Zones and approved by the main LRC on May 13. A link to the full report is posted at www.ncpta.org. PTAs were referenced in both the school gardens findings and recommendations for school breakfasts.
Findings included that school gardens are important tools for helping students be involved and connected with healthy foods. Additionally, there is a need for Local Education Agencies (LEAs), school boards, and PTA units across the State to receive a guidance document from the Department of Public Instruction on the use of produce grown in school gardens relative to the school nutrition program and use of the school garden produce in the classroom for instruction and tasting purposes.
Currently in Wake County, schools may use produce from school gardens in the classroom as part of lessons and tastings, and students also may take produce home and/or donate it to organizations that serve communities in need.
The Committee recommended that LEAs utilize the resources of the PTA to help implement innovative school breakfast programs. The recommendations included seeking multiple, innovative ways of increasing breakfast participation in schools as an additional means of caring for and nurturing public school children. The Committee encourages LEAs to support universal breakfast programs and to consider providing breakfast in the classroom during appropriate instructional and educational activities as one of the multiple options for removing barriers to participation.
PTA volunteers in North Carolina are already actively involved in healthy learning initiatives. NCPTA has awarded grants for several years to support healthy schools projects, and healthy initiatives are featured as part of NCPTA’s annual leadership trainings and workshops for PTA parents, teachers, students and community leaders.
NCPTA Executive Director Debra Horton and President-Elect Kelly Langston presented to the NCGA House LRC Committee on Food Desert Zones in March 2014. NCPTA is proactively working with the Department of Public Instruction to provide insight on what information school communities and local PTA units across the State need in a guidance document for school gardens.
“We are thrilled that the North Carolina General Assembly recognizes the importance of PTAs as a key resource for implementing innovative healthy school breakfast programs and improving understanding of how school gardens can be incorporated into a child’s healthy learning experience,” Horton said.