USDA Farm to School Team Site Visit
Boston School District in Boston, Massachusetts
In Boston Public Schools (BPS), community partnerships are helping sow the seeds
for a successful Farm to School experience. From facilitating an initial Farm to
School feasibility assessment to engaging youth in the cafeteria about
nutritious food choices, community partnerships, along with district commitment,
play an important role in the ongoing successes of the district’s Farm to School
On June 8-9, 2010, the USDA Farm to School Team visited BPS in Boston,
Massachusetts. BPS consists of 135 schools and uses a combination of
self-operating kitchens and vended meals to serve roughly 35,000 meals per day.
Approximately 74% of BPS students are eligible for free or reduced priced meals.
The initial Farm to School seed was planted with a feasibility assessment in
2007. A local nonprofit organization partnered with the BPS to conduct the
assessment, which identified interest levels, existing barriers, potential
challenges, opportunities, and action steps. Encouraged by the assessment
process, BPS continued down the road towards procuring local produce and helping
students to better understand where their food comes from. In 2009, BPS brought
on a Farm to School Coordinator to assist with implementation and strategic
planning; a key first step to ensuring success. The Coordinator, who works
closely with the Food Service Director, handles all of the logistics for the
district’s Farm to School activities.
BPS’ vision for Farm to School is to change the current culture around school
meals and use the cafeteria as an extension of the classroom to educate students
about making healthier food choices. The district started their efforts slowly
by piloting their Farm to School activities in the 2008-09 school year. BPS
purchased locally grown fruits and vegetables and featured them as the “Harvest
of the Month” special in ten schools across the district. In 2009, two
AmeriCorps VISTA members joined the district’s efforts by providing additional
support for educational programming and procurement logistics.
Local produce is purchased from farms located approximately one hundred miles
west of the city of Boston in the Pioneer Valley. These connections were
facilitated by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, which is sponsored by
the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, and dedicated to fostering
relationships between schools and producers. During the first year produce was
delivered to the BPS directly by the farmers. Since then the district has been
able to contract with distributors to deliver locally grown produce to selected
schools. Some of the locally grown items served on the lunch line include
apples, cabbage, carrots collard greens, pears, pea shoots, rutabaga, squash,
strawberries and sweet potatoes.
Working with a local nonprofit, the BPS hosts a professional guest chef
throughout the year. The guest chef rotates between five schools within the
district, helping prepare meals one day per week in each site. The culinary
expert works with the cafeteria staff to develop unique, healthy dishes using a
combination of local produce, conventional products, and USDA commodity foods.
The chef initiative has been praised by students and teachers alike.
Boston Public Schools has enthusiastic Farm to School staff and strong community
partnerships, and is planning to build on these assets to expand their Farm to
School efforts in the coming years.