Urban farm aims to feed BPS

March 16, 2012
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A farm business is pushing Boston Public Schools (BPS) to include more locally-grown fruits and vegetables in school meals.

City Growers, a for-profit organization that aims to transform vacant lots into intensive urban farms, is trying to join the fleet of food vendors who sell to BPS for student breakfasts and lunches.

The problem with the plan, City Growers co-founder and JP resident Margaret Connors said, is “the rigamarole and the complexity of the system,” which has a hard time coping with smaller food suppliers like locally-grown food vendors.

“It’s been very, very challenging for us as a small grower, to get into that system,” Connors said. “The menus for all the schools are the same across the board,” so suppliers must be able to provide enough food for the entire system to use, she explained.

“In all honesty, people aren’t used to dealing with fresh product,” co-founder Glynn Lloyd said. “To enter into a system like this, it’s challenging.”

“A group like City Growers might really help in the short term to excite students about local food” while they work with BPS to incorporate City Growers-produced food in the longer term, BPS spokesperson Lee McGuire said.

McGuire said BPS is making a “deliberate attempt” to increase the amount of locally-grown food served at its schools. Forty-one percent of food currently served in BPS cafeterias is already purchased in Mass. or neighboring states.

Local food is generally picked later, processed less and served fresher than food grown further away, all things that translate into a higher nutritional benefit.

While City Growers’ primary goal is to grow food in the community on land that is sitting idle while providing local jobs, providing vegetables to BPS is “part of the whole strategy,” Lloyd said.

“It’s a nice benefit to producing local foods,” he added. “There’s no reason why these urban farms can’t be part of the supply chain for BPS.”

BPS is hosting a panel discussion with BPS Director of Food and Nutrition Services Michael Peck on March 19 in Mission Hill to discuss BPS menus and farm-to-school programs. For more information, contact kszeta@boston.k12.ma.us.

 

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