| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – On June 3 a milestone was reached: one million meals have been made available to the city’s school children and families.
Mayor Domenic Sarno joined Sodexo officials as well as school superintendent Daniel Warwick at the Boland School to celebrate the program.
Sodexo is the company that prepares school meals.
The program is an extension of the regular meal program offered to the students of the Springfield school district.
Michael Gray, the North American vice president of Sodexo, explained to Reminder Publishing there are now 18 sites in the city offering daily a meal package including breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner with a meal package designed for the weekend offered on Friday.
Gray explained federal funding has made the meal program possible and it will be extended through August. The program has added fresh fruits and vegetables, he said.
Gray said Sodexo is working with the Springfield Food Policy Council and a farm in Lancaster to include greens grown in Massachusetts in meal packages.
Gray noted that normally at this time his staff would be “wrapping up the school year and going into the regular summer program.” The company and its staff have “learned a lot,” he noted, in the process of ramping up such an expanded food program.
He said that some of the meals are going to senior citizens and some others to the homeless.
Elizabeth Wills O’Gilvie, the chair of the Springfield Food Policy Council, said the district’s commitment to the meal program has “raised the quality of foods” many families would normally eat.
With the prevalence of a preventable disease such as Type 2 diabetes in the district, eating better is crucial, she added.
Supporting the meal program is part of the Food Council’s efforts to address food insecurity issues in the city. For example, the council’s website describes a new program for backyard gardens so people can raise some of their own food. For more information about the raised bed program, go to www.springfieldfoodpolicycouncil.org/grow-a-garden.html.
Both Sarno and Warwick praised the meal program. Warwick said it was the result of collaboration and partnerships.
Warwick added, “People don’t know how important the meals program is.”