March 2012

As part of the BPS Farm to School Initiative, the Department of Food & Nutrition Services’ Alexandra Emmott taught a baking class to the kindergarten and first grade students at Mission Hill K-8 in Roxbury.  Students in the class were able to see and hold a variety of locally grown squashes and learn about the Massachusetts storage crops harvested in the fall and served on the lunch line all winter long.

As part of an exercise in opening a bakery lead by teacher Kathy D’Andrea, students also got a chance to bake muffins using roasted and pureed butternut squash. The baking flexed kitchen skills, reading abilities, and basic math. And the muffins? Sweetly fragrant, tender-moist, and heartily kid approved!

Here’s the Recipe:

Homemade Butternut Squash Muffins

makes 12 muffins

  • 1 cup cooked and pureed butternut squash (can substitute another winter squash or sweet potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepitas for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners or butter & flour.

Whisk together the butternut squash, sugar, oil, and eggs.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. 

Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups – about 1/4 cup each.  The batter should fill the cups about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle over the pepitas and bake until puffed and set about 20-25 minutes.  Once cooked, a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins should come out clean.  Enjoy!


Photo of BPS' Orchard Gardens Cafeteria featured in Saturday's New York Times

Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB or “Pink Slime”) continues to capture media and public attention.  The New York Times ran an article in Saturday’s paper about responses to the issue from school districts and universities across the country.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which provides beef to school districts, revealed recently that some of this product contains LFTB.  Boston is the first district nation wide to take a strong position on the issue.  Under the direction of Michael Peck, new Director of Food & Nutrition Services, all USDA beef products have temporarily been stricken from cafeteria menus, awaiting information on product contents and sourcing from the USDA.

Mr. Peck is quoted in Saturday’s New York Times questioning the use of ammonia hydroxide gas in beef products containing LFTB: “It’s another example of the alteration of our food supply.  Have we created another unknown safety risk?”  Read the entire article HERE.

 Monday, March 19th The Boston Collaborative for Food & Fitness (BCFF) in partnership with Boston Public Schools (BPS) hosted a panel discussion on the State ofSchool Food i nBoston.  The panelists included Michael Peck, new Director of BPS Food & Nutrition Services; Shamil Mohammed, Deputy Director of BPS Food & Nutrition Services; Randy Davis, Regional Manager for Whitson’s Culinary Group (BPS’ satellite meal provider); Jennie Hall, Cafeteria Manager at East Boston High School; and Alexandra Emmott, Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program Manager for BPS.  The discussion was facilitated by Kim Szeto, Farm to School Coordinator for BPS, who co-chairs the BCFF School Food Subcommittee with Jose Masso, Project Manager for BCFF.

 The event was held at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury and drew a diverse crowd of more than 50 attendees.  The audience was primarily composed of high school aged students from across the city, representing a wide array of youth organizations and schools, as well as interested parents, teachers, and school administrators. 

 The panel discussed both Boston’s school food successes, such as the Farm to School Initiative, as well as challenges, such as short lunch periods and new Federal regulations.  Audience members were then invited to ask questions of the panel which covered a wide range of topics including recent media coverage of “Pink Slime” beef, food waste, teacher meals, portion sizes, youth advocacy opportunities, vegetarian and vegan options, the cafeteria environment, and culturally appropriate school meals. 


The BPS Farm to School team used the panel event to debut and sample a new a la carte item – local carrots with homemade hummus – which we plan to pilot in two schools this spring.  A la carte items are snacks or meals sold separately from the school breakfast and lunch program, such as potato chips.  The crowd responded overwhelmingly positively to the carrots and hummus.  In fact, we conducted a simple poll asking attendees what price they would pay for the package – responses ranged from $0.10 to $ 1.50 and averaged to $0.82.  Look for carrots and hummus on the a la carte menu at East Boston High and Mission Hill K-8 next month, priced competitively at only $0.75!

Effective last Wednesday, all USDA products made with ground beef – including hamburgers, tacos, and Salisbury steak – have temporarily been stricken from BPS menus.  In total, BPS has set aside about 62,000 pounds of USDA ground beef products,  awaiting information from the Federal Government as to whether these products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB or “Pink Slime.”)  Any products found to contain LFTB will be discarded or donated, while LFTB free products will be returned to cafeterias for use.  Tracing and identifying meat containing LFTB is complicated because the Federal Government does not require any labelling indicating LFTB presence. 

New Director of Food & Nutrition Services, Michael Peck, was quoted in Friday’s Boston Globe questioning USDA food standards:  “It’s yet another form of the adulteration of food products in our food supply.  I am sure that it is considered generally safe, but I think we need to hold the USDA to a higher standard than ‘generally safe’ when, in fact, this product has been eliminated from many retail segments . . . because they felt it didn’t meet a high enough standard.’’

The USDA announced this week, amidst media attention and public criticism of “pink slime,” that next year, school districts across the coutnry will be able to choose beef products which do not contain LFTB.  That said, the USDA maintains all products purchased for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious, and affordable, including  products containing LFTB.

Click HERE to read the entire Boston Globe story on this subject.

The FNS Fuel Up Team: Milton Lashus, Michael Sabin, Shamil Mohammed, John Magnarelli, Abhijit Potdar, Sam Depina, Dale Feeney, Jermaine Wiggins, Michael Peck, Billy Grubbs, and Nancy Fisher.

The BPS Department of Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is honored to receive a second Fuel Up to Play 60 grant in the amount of $94,000 for 2012.  This grant award has been made to support efforts to increase breakfast participation in 32 schools across the district, and was announced March 9th at the McCormack Middle School with a program launch.

National studies consistently confirm that school breakfast improves classroom performance; increase children’s ability to focus and concentrate on school work; decreases behavior problems, tardiness and visits to the school nurse; and increases attendance rate, facts echoed by McCormack Principal, Michael Sabin, in his address on Friday.

McCormack Principal, Michael Sabin, and NE Dairy Council Representative, Sheri Doucette, chat before the event + the grant award.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program of the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in collaboration with the USDA. The goal is to make changes at school that will help students “get active and play” for at least 60 minutes each day and “fuel up” with nutrient-rich foods such as low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Strawberry & banana smoothie samples!

McCormack Middle School Student enjoying a smoothie.

In 2011, through the first Fuel Up to Play 60 Wellness Program, BPS expanded breakfast service to include breakfast in the classroom, grab ‘n go breakfast, and new healthy menu items such as smoothies and fruit-yogurt parfaits. As a result of these efforts, student participation in breakfast increased by an average of 38% across the 47 schools involved in the program last year.  FNS is looking forward to expanding this program in 2012, continuing these important breakfast initiatives, and capitalizing on its partnership with the New England Dairy & Food Council.