| Matt Conway
CHICOPEE – In an effort to enhance their farm to table offerings, Chicopee FRESH is launching a Curbside Cafeteria food truck project.
Farm to School Coordinator for Chicopee Public Schools Greta Shwachman discussed the background behind Chicopee Fresh. She shared that the rebranded Food Service Department has continued its efforts to produce more natural and health-centric meals for the school district. “For the past six or seven years, we’ve been really focusing on farm to school and providing students with locally sourced options,” said Shwachman.
With Chicopee qualifying as a Community Eligibility Provision district, Shwachman explained that Chicopee FRESH provides free breakfast, lunch and after-school meals to students across the district. The farm to school coordinator stressed the program’s variety of local options, including fresh fruits, vegetables and produce served with the meals. “With lunch, we try to serve local items several times each week,” said Schwachman.
In an effort to embrace the growing food truck trend in food service departments, Schwachman shared that Chicopee FRESH applied for a Food Security Infrastructure Grant from the state’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The grant program, which initially started during the pandemic, offers up to $500,000 for food security infrastructure project across the state.
Chicopee FRESH received $150,000 from the grant program, with Schwachman sharing that the funds went to the purchasing of a brand-new, custom designed food truck for the district’s food program. The truck is being envisioned as a mobile distribution site for the school’s meal program, allowing the district to reach students and families that had trouble accessing food sites.
“Throughout the pandemic, we were operating a grab-and-go meal program. [The food truck] will be a way to reach families that didn’t have access to a vehicle or weren’t able to get to our sites,” said Schwachman. The farm to school coordinator said the truck should be hitting Chicopee by the end of the month, continuing to serve Chicopee Public Schools while also offering adult meals at an affordable cost. “We want to combat food insecurity across the community,” said Shwachman, who also shared that the food truck could be utilized for communal events and partnerships as well.
Before full implementation, Chicopee FRESH is sharing a survey to learn more about the community’s hopes for the program. “We want to know where people would like to visit the truck, how far they are willing to go to access the truck, what kind of food items they want to see on the truck and other specifics,” said Schwachman. She hopes students, teachers and members of the community participate in the survey to give Chicopee FRESH a clear vision of how to serve Chicopee.
Readers can take the Chicopee FRESH survey at www.tinyurl.com/curbsidecafeteriaencuesta.