Last week, the UMass Dining team met with Andy Kendall, Executive Director of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation regarding the Local, Healthy UMass Food System Initiative. The meeting was held to discuss the progress being made at UMass Dining to leverage broader institutional change in order to create a more resilient New England food system.
The Kendall Foundation awarded UMass Dining two grants, one in 2014 and the second in January of 2016 to support this goal. Specifically, UMass Dining is using the most recent grant to expand purchasing of lean, local proteins and to establish a way for people off campus to have access to healthy, affordable meals.
In an effort to become a more replicable model to regional institutions, UMass Dining invited foodservice directors from Chicopee and Hartford Public Schools to assess viable purchasing options best suited to their needs. UMass Dining has a history of working with Chicopee Public Schools, a sister grantee of the Kendall Foundation.
We would like to thank the Kendall Foundation for their continued support. Learn more about the Kendall Foundation and their mission to improve access and affordability to local food in New England here.
A diet full of healthy, nutritious, and fresh foods is a huge part of the key to success for children in K-12 public schools, but when we think about what public schools actually serve students, the food is usually the opposite - unhealthy, nutrient deficient, and highly processed.
93% of students who attend the Stefanik Elementary School receive free or reduced lunch, more than any other school in the Chicopee district. ChicopeeFRESH, a local, healthy food initiative was launched in the fall of 2014 in order to teach students about the importance of local, healthy, and sustainable foods.
The initiative has worked its way into the cafeterias at Stefanik Elementary School, serving up delicious, nutritious “home-cooked” meals made with produce and meats from local farms. UMass Dining has partnered with Chicopee in their efforts, collaborating on menu design and sharing purchasing insights with Chicopee Food Services.
To allow students to make a more personal connection with their food, a small, 4 bed vegetable garden was installed at Stefanik Elementary School in June of 2015 with the help of Chicopee High School students and the UMass Permaculture 2015 Summer Garden Crew.
The produce harvested from the garden is used in school-wide taste tests conducted by FoodCorps Service Member Greta Schwachman, as well as cafeteria meals.
In November of 2015, the UMass Amherst Permaculture Initiative was awarded a $3,500 grant from Women for UMass Amherst to work with school staff and FoodCorps Service Members on expanding and developing the Stefanik Elementary School Garden.
Xochiquetzal Salazar, a Sustainable Food & Farming senior and Student Garden Coordinator for UMass Permaculture has acted as a consultant to the Stefanik Elementary School Garden this past semester, along with local food consultant Ryan Harb. Together, they have organized design charrettes with the garden's stakeholders, prepared budgets, developed planting and harvesting schedules, and organized events to invite UMass students to positively impact their greater community through this project.
On April 28, UMass Permaculture hosted a Finals Study Break in which students potted herbs like chives, oregano, and mint from Franklin Permaculture Garden for donation to the Stefanik Elementary School Garden. These herbs will be the start of a new pollinator and herb garden set for installation at Stefanik.
The UMass Permaculture 2016 Summer Crew plans to lend their hands on the ground at Stefanik this season before school gets out for summer.
Interested in getting involved? Want to learn more about UMass Permaculture's partnership with the Stefanik Elementary School Garden? Contact UMass Permaculture here.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.