Skip to main content
  1. News Release

  2. May 14, 2024

National Physicians Group Offers North Carolina School District $4K to Pay for Plant-Based School Lunch Pilot Program

Burke County Campaign Included Expert Testimony, Mobile Billboard, and “Taste the Rainbow” Cooking Class

National Physicians Group Offers North Carolina School District $4K to Pay for Plant-Based School Lunch Pilot Program
Experts from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine stand next to a mobile billboard before speaking at the Burke County Public Schools board meeting.

MORGANTON, N.C. — Experts from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based national health advocacy organization, joined a North Carolina pediatrician in speaking at Burke County Public Schools board meeting on Monday, May 13, 2024, to urge officials there to accept a $4,000 grant to pilot two plant-based entrees in three of the district’s schools in the 2024-2025 school year.

In May 2023, the Physicians Committee opposed Burke County Public Schools’ decision to spend $33,000 on a mobile meat smoker students dubbed the “Pig Rig.” This year, the group encouraged the school district to look at its entire school food lineup and consider how it can shift toward healthier options.

A mobile billboard urging Superintendent Mike Swan to accept the grant offer spent the day circling Burke County.

Physicians Committee Nutrition Education Coordinator Noah Praamsma, MS, RDN, outlined the details of the grant offer. Joseph Barrocas, MD, a pediatrician from Huntersville, N.C., spoke about childhood obesity and the related lifestyle diseases he treats in children. And Roxanne Becker, MBChB, a medical doctor with the Physicians Committee, spoke on the health dangers of processed meat being on the school lunch menu.

“Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the detrimental effects of ultra-processed foods and processed meats on children's attention span and academic performance,” Dr. Becker said. “The standard Western diet, rich in red and processed meats and other ultra-processed foods, has been found to increase the risks of contracting ADHD. When concentration wanes, academic performance suffers.

“On the other hand, plant-based whole foods, including whole grains, fruit, and vegetables improve executive functioning of the brain, which includes memory and attention,” she said.

A free “Taste the Rainbow” plant-based cooking class, sponsored by the Physicians Committee, was held before the school board meeting at the Collett Street Recreation Center in Morganton. Participants made their own Veggie Rainbow Wraps, Green Monster Smoothies, Rainbow Fruit Skewers, and Chickpea Cookie Dough Balls.

One out of three kids aged 10 to 17 in North Carolina is overweight or obese. Plant-based diets have been shown to help improve childhood obesity, an epidemic that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, conditions that are becoming more and more common in children. A low-fat, vegan diet has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease in obese children by improving their weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Limiting saturated fat has been shown to significantly lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure in children and adolescents. That’s important as obese children now show evidence of significant heart disease beginning as young as age 8. And half of U.S. children and adolescents do not have ideal cholesterol levels, with 25% in the clinically high range.

For an interview with any of the three experts, please contact Kim Kilbride at 202-717-8665 or kkilbride [at] (kkilbride[at]pcrm[dot]org)

Media Contact

Kim Kilbride



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

More on Healthy School Food