With public schools serving as hubs of activity, children in eastern Massachusetts communities are set to gain greater access to local food through a new initiative beginning this September. The Food Project, in partnership with CitySprouts and Boston Public Schools, will be delivering farm-to-school and school gardening projects in Boston, Lynn, and Gloucester. This partnership comprises the Massachusetts FoodCorps Initiative.
This effort is made possible by FoodCorps, a new AmeriCorps program that places service members for one year in high-need communities to improve children’s education about and access to healthy, locally grown food.
“CitySprouts and Boston Public Schools are natural partners for The Food Project as we embark on this new school-based initiative,” said Margaret Williams, executive director of The Food Project. “We’re eager to work with them in this exciting effort to increase children’s access to fresh and local food.”
The Massachusetts FoodCorps Initiative is a collaboration among two nonprofit organizations and the food and nutrition services department of the Boston Public Schools. The Food Project is a youth development and sustainable farming organization that offers employment, out-of-school education, and skills development opportunities to over 140 Greater Boston area youth each year. CitySprouts is an organization that works with public schools to develop school gardens as a learning resource for teachers, and provides support to teachers in extending their classroom curricula to the food-growing garden classroom. Boston Public Schools Food and Nutrition Service Department serves over 34,000 students each day, 75 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Three years ago, Boston Public Schools piloted a Farm to School Initiative that now serves a locally grown item on the cafeteria menu every Thursday in 46 cafeterias across the city.
FoodCorps service members will work in three main areas. First, through after-school programs at schools in the North Shore communities of Lynn and Gloucester, they will work with families and equip them with the resources to exert greater control over the food they eat, both at home and in school.
Second, under CitySprouts’ leadership, service members will help introduce the group’s innovative school gardening model to Gloucester elementary schools, focusing on supporting teachers’ use of gardens to achieve academic and nutrition learning goals.
Finally, they will work on and strengthen the farm-to-school outreach and awareness-raising campaign currently being piloted by the Farm to School Initiative of Boston Public Schools. This follows on the success from three years of intensive work by the Boston Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services to source local produce for the 46 schools in the system that have full-kitchen cafeteria facilities.
"The timing of this new initiative couldn't be better,” said Ann-Marie Jordan, health coordinator of the Gloucester Public Schools. “Our partnership with CitySprouts and The Food Project will provide us with essential support as we look to integrate academic, health, and environmental education through hands-on learning in school yard gardens.”
The Massachusetts FoodCorps Initiative was chosen as one of FoodCorps’ 10 host organizations following a highly competitive process from 108 prospective host sites across the country.