News Roundup

School Nutrition Programs across the Commonwealth are working diligently to ensure that students receive real, wholesome food and freshly grown produce while making strides to end hunger in Massachusetts. Check out the recent news highlighting Massachusetts schools!

In September, our keynote speaker Chef Dan Giusti from this year’s 2019 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit was featured on The Today Show. In this video segment, Chef Dan discusses his work with Brigaid and his mission to bring professional chefs to the front-lines of school nutrition.

In September, Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire, Massachusetts received a grant kickstarting a new farm-to-school program. In this grant, the school expects to build three greenhouses, two supply sheds, ten raised beds, and an outdoor classroom. This grant will help involve students in not only eating healthfully but growing the produce and the program themselves.

In September, Waltham Public Schools partnered with Project Bread to ramp up school menus. Project Bread, which is an organization committed to preventing and ending hunger in Massachusetts, is sending Chef Vanessa to schools across the district to implement new recipes and creations for students to try.

News Roundup

Photo: February 2019 SNA Publication

School Nutrition Programs across the Commonwealth are working diligently to ensure that students receive fresh meals and learn about new food topics, while also helping serve their community members. Check out the recent news highlighting Massachusetts schools!

In November, an article detailed the partnership between Framingham State University and Sodexo with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. In this partnership, a trial was implemented on the FSU campus to assess the biological effects of different macronutrient diets.

In February, Waltham public schools were recognized for their reworked breakfast and lunch school programs. Some of the upgrades made to the district’s programs included bringing speakers in to do short presentations on food topics for children, incorporating herbs and plants into the curriculum, and partnering with Greater Boston Food Bank to help Waltham residents in need of food.

In February, Boston mayor Marty Walsh discussed My Way Café, which is a new program being implemented into many Boston schools to deliver fresh food to young children. The program allows students the opportunity to choose delicious and nutritious meals cafeteria-style in their schools.

In the February edition SNA magazine, Billerica Public Schools were highlighted for their Food Market – a coordinated program promoted by the BPS School Nutrition department. The Market is open to all residents of Billerica and features a selection of 15-20 different fresh and shelf-stable items and serves around 1,600 community members.

News Roundup

Broccoli, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes prepared for healthy school lunch.School Nutrition Programs across the Commonwealth are working diligently to ensure that students receive fresh meals, access to fruits and vegetables, a healthy breakfast to start their day, and lessons in eating locally – among many other things. Check out the recent news highlighting Massachusetts schools!

Waltham Public Schools Adds Indoor Gardens to Grow Food and Minds

Food Service Director April Liles and Nutrition Coordinator Haylee Dussault turned an Organic Grow Rack into a garden of opportunity for Waltham Public Schools. April spotted EvanLEE ORGANICS’ Grow Racks at the School Nutrition Association conference in October and immediately saw the potential of growing food indoors to engage students and increase nutrition education throughout her district.

Food Service Director April Liles and Nutrition Coordinator Haylee Dussault who spearheaded the addition of Organic Grow Racks to several Waltham Public Schools.

With the dedication and commitment of April and Haylee, five Waltham Public Schools now have these portable indoor gardens. The schools grow plants like herbs, kale, various lettuce varieties and spinach. They are always experimenting with new vegetable plants like the recent addition of radishes to the Waltham High School garden.

The Grow Racks are 4’ wide, 2’ deep and come on wheels. The Racks do not require any outside light because they are powered by timed LED lightbulbs. This functionality allows schools to have flexibility in where they place the Grow Racks and does not require them to rely on the unpredictable New England seasons and weather conditions.

To get started, April and Haylee experimented with one rack at Waltham High School to fine-tune the process. Once they found a successful method, they put together a detailed manual for the other schools to use and in turn, be successful with their indoor gardening. After receiving buy-in from the schools and purchasing the racks, each school selected a “school champion” to spearhead their school’s Grow Rack. April also ran a planning and “set-up” meeting so all schools knew how to integrate these Racks into their schools.

The EvanLEE ORGANICS “Grow Rack” at Waltham High School in Waltham, MA.

April emphasized the importance of starting slowly when beginning a school garden initiative and more importantly she said, “every school needs a champion to make this all a success.”

One of the many benefits of the grow racks is they are very low maintenance for schools. They just require periodic watering and then the actual harvesting of the produce. The school champion may also need to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. There is an initial investment in the structure and the soil but after that April reinforced that, “…you can keep reusing the soil for new plants. You just have to buy the seeds to keep planting. Other than that you just have to water them and the lights are on a timer so schools don’t even have to worry about that.”

April said that these racks, “… provide produce for our menus, connect kids to what we are growing and with the cafeteria. It’s a small investment with a huge reward for nutrition education.”

To promote these Grow Racks to students and to make the produce exciting, Haylee prepares samples for students in the lunchroom. The schools also use these vegetables on the lunch menu with signs that say things like, “Try some lettuce from your very own grow rack.”

Produce grown on the Organic Grow Racks are sampled to students to connect them to the school’s gardening efforts.

Long-term, April shared that she has a vision for phase three of these efforts. The first phase was buy-in and the second phase was to get everyone planting and using the Grow Racks. For the third phase, she would like to incorporate the Grow Racks in ongoing school curriculum and provide more educational material and resources for teachers to be able to do just that. She also sees a huge opportunity to use the school’s harvest in fundraising efforts like selling fresh grown herbs to the school community.

If you’re interested in starting or expanding your school garden, whether it be a Grow Rack or another vehicle for growing fresh produce, Framingham State University offers a 4-week online graduate course called “Growing Your School Garden.” Sign-up today and enjoy the convenience of online learning and help prepare for the school year ahead.

For additional resources on school gardening and “going green,” visit the JSI Resource Center.