School Food

Ensuring a healthy school environment includes not only serving healthy food in the cafeteria, but also creating an environment where students are informed of and encouraged to make healthy food choices.

Worcester Public Schools, together with the Worcester Advisory Food Policy Council and their Hunger-Free & Healthy Project has been able to expand various USDA feeding programs such as school breakfast and summer meals. The support of the Council has allowed Worcester Public Schools to continuously improve the nutritious quality of the school meal program.

School Meals

The school meals program in the Worcester Public Schools feeds around 15,800 student lunches, 9,500 breakfasts, and 1,400 snacks each day at 60 different school sites.  Approximately twenty schools are cooking meals in their school cafeterias, which is approximately 10,000 lunches per day.  Other schools that are not equipped with appropriate kitchen facilities receive pre-plated meals that are prepared and delivered by a company contracted by Worcester Public Schools.  Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year the company will preferentially source local produce and serve raw fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible.  All bread products will also be whole grain as well.

At all schools both lunch and breakfast are served.  In 94% of schools that have over 80% of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, breakfast is served after the bell in the classroom to ensure that all students are well-fed before the school day starts.  With the support of Hunger-Free & Healthy and the Worcester Advisory Food Policy Council school breakfast is now available to every child in attendance in 14 schools with the highest level of free and reduced eligibility, ensuring access of nutritious meals for an additional 5,000 students. Seventy-two percent of all WPS students receive free and reduced lunch, which is up 4% over the 2008-2009 school year.  Overall meal participation is at approximately 70%.

Many strides have been made to ensure that the food is the healthiest possible.  There are no snack-food or soda vending machines, though there are water, juice and sports drink vending machines.  The in-house meals program is dedicated to being Zero Trans Fat meaning that it has no trans fats in the meals, which are the least healthy type of fats.  The menu features 90% whole grain bread products as well as True Moo milk, which is supplied by Garelick Farms and is free of all high fructose corn syrup and has a slightly reduced sugar content.

WPS Nutrition Director Donna Lombardi, with the support and encouragement of Hunger-Free & Healthy , has also worked to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to the menu, especially those produced by local farms.

Summer Feeding Program

The Worcester Advisory Food Policy Council has also been able to significantly expand the Summer Feeding Program.  Working with the City’s Park and Recreation Department, the number of summer meal sites has expanded to included sites serving nutritious meals 7-days per week when school is not in session.  In the summer of 2009, thirty different sites in the city served meals to youth between 3-7 days per week.  Twenty of those sites served two meals per day, either breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner.

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