With Local Lunches, Brookline Schools Link Food with the Environment
Elementary schools featuring special menu to emphasize environmental impact of food choices during climate week.
Dr. Sonya Elder was very busy last Friday.
Not only is Elder the director of food services for the Public Schools of Brookline, but on this day she was in charge of making sure 400 pounds of Nella Pasta’s artisan winter-squash ravioli got safely from Jamaica Plain, where it was made, to each of the eight elementary schools in Brookline. During a snowstorm. One that was bad enough to cancel school for the day.
Wait, Brookline's elementary school students get to eat artisan ravioli? Yes, they do—during Brookline's Climate Week.
The Jamaica Plain pasta is part of a menu of locally produced cafeteria food being served in the Brookline schools this week. Elder said the idea of local lunches came out another climate-related initiative: Meatless Mondays.
“We worked with CCAB last year through the public health department to create Meatless Monday,” Elder said. “The idea of Meatless Mondays is to help students and residents of Brookline understand how personal habits and choices can have an impact on the climate and health.”
“I’d heard about Climate Week at a meeting I attended early summer 2010 and knew I wanted to participate and help people know how their food choices can positively impact the environment,” she added.
Elder said locally produced foods consume less energy in transit to the table, that organic foods grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers are gentler on the planet and that vegetarian choices can be produced with fewer resources than meat-based options.
The K-8 Climate Week menu features:
- Local produce from LanniOrchards in Lunenburg, MA and Joe Czajkowski’sFarm in Hadley, MA
- Local ravioli by NellaPasta in Jamaica Plain, MA
- Organic yogurt from StonyfieldFarms, NH
- All-natural, local b.good hamburgers made with beef from Pineland Farms, a collaborative of New England family farms
“We serve the same hamburgers throughout the year, but we are highlighting it this week," Elder said.
"I consider this a huge improvement. It is unheard of to have the quality of hamburger we serve in Brookline in the quantity needed for a typical school district. Other districts feature it at one school or once a year. It is a huge step forward in providing high-quality food,” Elder added.
Elder’s intern, Kate Janisch, found Nella Pasta at a store near Fenway and, with Climate Week in mind, thought they might be available to provide pasta.
Two women own it and were thrilled to participate, even bringing a new machine in to help make the quantity needed.
For last Monday’s Climate Week menu, Brookline elementary schools served over 400 pounds of Nella Pasta’s Winter Squash and Cheese ravioli, which not only is made in JP, but features local squash from Springbrook Farm in Littleton, MA.
“It was tricky to coordinate, what with the new machine and snow and such,” Elder confessed. “And it certainly is more expensive to use these items, but it is something we can do once in a while for a compelling reason like Climate Week.”
Elder carefully manages her budget, noting which menu items cost more than usual and where she can spend less.
“The meatless entrees tend to be less expensive. I’ll spend more on hamburgers and less on the macaroni and cheese or baked ziti. It all fits together,” she said.
Separate from Food Services, but also involved in Climate Week is the Green Team at each school. A set of posters helped promote Climate Week and educate students about how food choices impact the environment. The Green Teams were instrumental in the poster project and helped hang them at every school.
Elder said she is proud to work in a health-conscious community that cares about the environment.
“I’m a Brookline parent and part of the community, so I feel really good about it,” she said.
After Monday’s successful debut of Nella Pasta ravioli, Elder said Climate Week is something she hopes to be able to do again in the future. Maybe with out the snow storm next time.