News Roundup

School Nutrition Programs across the Commonwealth are working diligently to ensure that students receive real, freshly grown produce while learning about locally sourced food and the importance of healthy eating. Check out recent news highlighting Massachusetts schools in October.

Milton High School kept the growing season going by giving their special education students the opportunity to grow their own garden right in their classrooms. Produce such as kale, lemon basil, and lettuce are harvested by the students that arrive eagerly each day to see the growth of what they have planted. According to Milton’s Food Services Director, Jackie Morgan, the students are not only learning about ownership and responsibility, but also on a path to healthier eating.

Fall River elementary educator Timothy Powers was presented with a Teacher Champion Award by Project Bread and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for his work in combating student hunger and efforts in helping offer student snack breaks. Timothy also worked to increase student participation in the school breakfast program and launched a new smoothie program to not only provide another breakfast option, but to teach students why breakfast and healthy food is important.

Sandwich students at Forestdale School learned about locally sourced foods that are offered daily in their cafeteria. The second graders were taught how to make their own mini cranberry bogs, sample cranberry juice and Craisins, and tried fish-and-chips using locally caught fish. Students were also able to try October’s “Harvest of the Month”, which featured local pears.

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.

Framingham Public Schools Turns an Empty Plot of Land into a Garden of Possibilities

Framingham High School overhauled an empty lot of grass on-campus and turned it into a 1.5-acre garden called The Flyer Farms. Started in 2009, this garden not only grows supplemental vegetables for the school to serve but offers employment opportunities for high school students, marketing potential for the school nutrition program and serves as a space to educate students about agriculture and nutrition.

Chef Brendan Ryan, Food Department Administrator, spearheaded the vision for the outdoor garden. He saw this empty space between buildings at Framingham High School and saw the opportunity to grow fresh produce. Brendan said that Director of Foodservice Operations Raquel Vazquez, a graduate of Framingham State University’s Nutrition Program, “…was pivotal in the inception and installation of the garden.”

Brendan Ryan and Director of Foodservice Operations Raquel Vazquez in front of The Flyer Farms.

To get the garden up and running each year, the school hosts a Garden Day which takes place on a Saturday at the end of April. This event includes National Honor Society students, teachers and families who help the food service department get the garden ready for the season. Students can earn community service hours that day and the event gets the whole community involved in the school gardens. Raquel said, “We want to make the gardens as student-oriented as possible.” The team also hires students for the summer months to help mow, weed and harvest the gardens. These roles provide employment opportunities for students and help the food service department maintain the gardens during the summer months.

For a quicker return on investment, the team buys 90-day crops so they don’t have to harvest in the middle of summer. They also strategically plan what’s in each garden bed to maximize the amount of food they can grow. Brendan works with a local vendor to buy young seedlings versus larger potted plants to save on costs.

The team grows a wide range of vegetables including tomatoes, corn, peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots, lettuce, pickling cucumbers and herbs. To liven up the space, they also grow towering sunflowers (that reach the second floor of the building) and a variety of other flowers for decorative purposes.

The 1.5-acre Flyer Farms at Framingham High School

The lettuce usage in Framingham Public Schools is very high, averaging about 12 pounds per meal period. Although the outdoor gardens do grow a large quantity of vegetables, of course, this is not enough to cover the schools’ food service needs. Raquel and Brendan emphasized that the produce supplements these needs and on top of that, it allows students to learn how food is grown.

For phase 2 of the outdoor garden, the team also wants to grow herbs and flowers around an outdoor café. This will create an additional green space for students to spend time outside. Long-term, Brendan and Raquel want to expand their initiatives with a potential branded hydroponic growing lab. This lab would be operated and run by students in the Biology department and would help grow food for the school year-round.

Raquel’s advice to other school nutrition teams that are looking to start an outdoor garden is to do your research upfront before getting started. She said first, “Look-up your local regulations first, know what’s allowed, what you can or cannot grow. Test your soil, realistically space out your beds and ensure there is room to walk in between them and reach plants. Understand the potential barriers like pests or animals that would require you to add fencing around the gardens.”

Brussel Sprouts plants grown on The Flyer Farms.

In terms of community support, Raquel said, “A lot of the parents of students are super appreciative of what we’re doing.” Brendan shared that students now also just enjoy spending time in this space. He said that the Photography club comes down to practice taking photos, the drama club holds rehearsals there and students like to hang out and socialize by the gardens.