School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced.  Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and a growing number of sponsors, individuals, and private funders, FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students’ academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment.  Boston Public Schools has been a participating district since School Food FOCUS was founded.

The national gathering, held in Chicago May 3rd to 5th, brought together school food service professionals, community partners already working with districts, and government officials from the USDA and CDC.  The gathering is an opportunity for casual conversations and more formal networking with peers working in districts across the country as well as government officials.  This year, three members of the BPS Food & Nutrition Services department – Michael Peck, Director of FNS; Kim Szeto, Farm to School Coordinator; and Alexandra Emmott, Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program Manager – attended.

A Few Highlights from the Conference:

  • A tour of Chicago Public Schools with a focus on their new procurement process for Miller Antibiotic Free Chicken.
  • Keynote address by Dan Carmody, President of Detroit Eastern Market.  Dan’s background is in urban planning and his address explored the links between economics, the environment, and equity.
  • School Food Showcase featuring vetted, affordable, healthy products for schools.  Asian food Solutions and Jennie-O, two vendors already used by BPS, were featured.
  • Meeting Chicago Public Schools students who won the Cooking Up Change competition with their recipes oven fried chicken, sweet potato & bean salad, and sautéed cabbage and collard greens.  (Delicious! & we have the recipes.)
  • Meeting Debra Kane, National Director for the USDA Farm to School Program, formerly a community partner for Portland Public Schools working at Eco Trust in Oregon.  Debra wrote the RFP for the new federally funded Farm to School grants for which BPS will be applying this spring.
  • And, last but not least, this amazing school food anthem, written and performed by Melissa Honeywood, new Director of FNS for Cambridge Public Schools.  Check it out here: