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Mark Johnson on School Nutrition: A Close Reading

A few days ago, Superintendent of public instruction Mark Johnson sent out the mailer below on school nutrition. School nutrition remains a critical battleground as students and families battle food insecurity amidst stagnating wages and continual budget cuts in North Carolina. 

Real Facts previously documented how Johnson used the NC public schools email list as his personal blog. Now, it seems that Johnson has moved to glossy mailers as a medium for his vacuous nutrition advice. Below, find an annotated version of Johnson’s note.

“Parents – “As the State Superintendent of North Carolina’s public schools, I want you to know that your child’s success in school and beyond is our top priority. We all must help our students get the right nourishment for their bodies as well as their minds.

Here, Mark Johnson opens by assuring the reader that he is not merely someone with a gift card to Kinkos who has hacked into the DPI address book, but rather is the person in charge of your child’s education. Though his title feels less than reassuring, considering the first sentence contains a basic grammatical error. It should read, “As the State Superintendent of North Carolina’s public schools, I want you to know that your child’s success in school and beyond is my top priority.” I assume Johnson is speaking for all North Carolina public schools as an entity when he says, “We all must help our students get the right nourishment for their bodies as well as their minds,” though Johnson leaves some questions unanswered: is the body nourishment the same as the mind nourishment? Is the right nourishment for the body the right nourishment for the mind? Abandoning these metaphysical quandaries, Johnson then sharply pivots to the classroom.

Students who eat all three meals do better in the classroom. The nourishment helps them pay attention longer and learn more easily. My own daughter started kindergarten in our public schools this year. As a parent, I make sure she eats every meal.

Johnson offers the groundbreaking wisdom that eating consistent meals leads to better classroom performance. He then pivots to his own daughter, whom Mark Johnson assures us he feeds. This fact is rather comforting, considering his $127,561 annual salary bests most if not all veteran teachers in North Carolina.

All students can eat breakfast and lunch at school for little or no cost. And, school meals are more delicious and nutritious than ever.

Free and reduced price lunch is available at North Carolina schools, Johnson tells us. Parents probably already know this, but Johnson provides no more information about how to access FRL. Though, in September 2018, Johnson did appoint Joe Maimone as his chief of staff, the same man who once claimed that public schools were “milking” federal free and reduced lunch dollars.

Most importantly, school meals are apparently “more delicious and nutritious than ever,” but alas, there are no more edifying details about this month’s menu.

What can North Carolina families to support good health and nourishment for their children? Make sure your child eats every meal, every day. Also, visit http://childnutirion.ncpublicschools.gov for more school nutrition information.

Mark Johnson then suggests parents feed their children every day. Of course, it is not that simple, as North Carolina tax cuts from Johnson’s party essentially criminalize poverty and foreclose liberated access to resources like SNAP but, hey, Mark Johnson says feed your kids, so you should do it.

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Follow Mark Johnson on social media! I’m sure that’s where you’ll find the school lunch menu.