Fundraiser Stars Chef-styled School Lunches

Chef Sean Fowler of Mandolin created the Ponzu Chicken Poke Bowl to raise awareness about school-lunch funding and nutrition. The Raleigh restaurant will be serving the dish through the end of May to raise money for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Backpack Buddies.

Steven Greene, executive chef at Herons, is serving more than a meal with his teriyaki chicken sandwich. He is also serving the community as all proceeds from the dish will go to the nonprofit No Kid Hungry.

Greene, along with other chefs in the area, is working with the North Carolina PTA to reimagine school lunches. His meal — teriyaki chicken sandwich with vegetables, fruit and barley salad — will be served at the Cary restaurant until May 31. Herons will match all proceeds from the lunch.

The chefs hope to raise awareness about the importance of state funding for school lunches and school nutrition. Nearly 60 percent of children in North Carolina are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and many students get 50 percent of their daily nutrients from such programs.

“One of the biggest impacts we could make is a budget increase to get better-quality ingredients that are more nutritional to these kids,” Greene said.

Sean Fowler, chef/owner at Mandolin in Raleigh, helped bring Greene on board the North Carolina PTA’s mission to rethink school meals. Fowler also created a special lunch: Ponzu Chicken Poke Bowl includes brown rice, glazed chicken and a vegetable medley of edamame, radishes, cucumbers and kale.

“With a few extra pennies and a little bit of culinary creativity, you can come up with some really good, really nutritious foods,” Fowler said.

Proceeds from Mandolin’s meal, which will also be served until the end of May, will benefit Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Backpack Buddies program, which provides grocery-filled backpacks to food-insecure kids to take home over the weekend.

“I don’t necessarily just want to run my restaurant to provide for me and my family, but I think I would also hopefully like to be able to use it to make the neighborhood and the community we live in a better place,” Fowler said.

Greene and Fowler’s dishes not only taste good but are prepared according to the National School Lunch Program’s guidelines.

“It’s kind of something to show that even with these restrictions you can still do a well thought out and quality tasting meal,” Greene said. “We’re using a lot of fresh vegetables and ingredients on the plate.”

In addition to creating a quality meal, Greene hopes to spread awareness about school-meal funding and standards.

“Our clientele sometimes can be the ones who have the biggest voice, more than us as chefs,” he said.

While not all customers will want the special dishes, they can still donate to No Kid Hungry and Backpack Buddies.

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