Not All School Lunches Are Created Equal

What’s For Lunch?

As students of all ages go back to school this month, they all have one thing in common-school lunch. Not all school lunches are created equal, and some have come a long way from the days of mystery meat. As Local Hero members, several local schools and colleges are making great efforts to be sure that their students are eating healthier meals made with locally grown produce. UMass Amherst recently won the prestigious Ivy Award for excellence in food service-largely earned from their commitment to integrating fresh, local produce into the menu. Likewise, Northfield Mount Hermon, a private boarding school in Gill, not only makes it a priority to purchase locally-grown produce; they grow a portion of their cafeteria food on their school farm! At Northfield Mount Hermon, knowing where cafeteria food comes from is part of the curriculum, culture, and practice of the institution.

September 22-27th marks the second annual Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week. This week-long event is organized by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, and is designed to highlight the work that schools all over Massachusetts are doing to serve local food to their students, and to help more schools get started serving local foods. Most schools will participate by serving up local fare and inviting local legislators and farmers to share the meal. Some schools may take field trips to local farms to find out exactly where their lunch comes from. Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, Inc. will celebrate the week by sowing 2,008 seeds in the school gardens they’ve helped to create. 

Kelly Erwin, Managing Consultant for the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, notes that schools that buy locally often see a financial benefit because more students buy school lunches as the meals become more appetizing. Worcester Public Schools, for example, have seen a fifteen percent increase in school lunch purchases since the district began buying locally. But these benefits aren’t limited to the schools. The sixty farms providing products to local schools in Massachusetts are generating more than $700,000 in additional revenue each year. To date there are more than 160 public school districts and 30 colleges across the state serving local food on a regular basis.

Want your schools to buy more local food? Start by letting your school’s administration and cafeteria manager know how you feel. Then get more information about the Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week and the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. Contact Kelly Erwin (email) at (413) 253-3844 with additional questions about how to get started.

To sign up for CISA’s quarterly Farm to School eNewsletter, email Claire Morenon.

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