Where does the food come from that we feed our kids in schools? Laura Benavidez, Executive Director of

Food and Nutrition Services for the Boston Public Schools, discusses a program she’s spearheading

aimed at transforming how food is sourced, prepared, and served throughout Boston’s public schools.

Currently, most of the food is prepared in New Jersey, frozen, and transported to Boston. “We’re going to

revolutionize how we feed kids,” says Benavidez. Jill Shah, serial entrepreneur and president of the Shah

Family Foundation, is providing the funding to build school kitchens in the 75% of schools who do not

have them so that meals can be prepared on-site with fresh ingredients. Eventually the program, which

has the support of the Mayor, will be expanded throughout the district and impact 57,000 kids. The

ultimate goal is to create a blueprint for other school districts to replicate its success. “We’re more than

happy to share [what we’ve learned] throughout the country,” says Shah.

The ultimate judges of that success are the kids who are thriving on the fresh food prepared in the new

kitchens. Students are given a choice from a menu of healthy options. “Kids are choosing what they eat

and they’re going to eat what they choose,” says Benavidez. The kids are even embracing vegetables.

Shah relates a story about walking into the cafeteria at one of the schools in the program. “There was this

quiet hum, and every kid was leaned over a tray eating, happily. That’s not how a lunch room in a public

school usually is!,” she exclaimed. In addition to this overwhelming anecdotal success, they are funding a

study to gather data on how the program is affecting educational outcomes. This ongoing research will

inform continuing improvement of the program. “Some of it is important to measure with studies, but some

of it is just a vibe that you feel when you walk in to a place,” concludes Shah.

Listen and learn about an innovative program that is transforming the way kids interact with healthy food

at school.

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