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Springfield Public Schools Recognized as Model for Improving Student Nutrition, Outcomes

October 12, 2017

Springfield Public Schools (SPS) is recognized as a national leader in school nutrition improvements through innovative initiatives effecting student wellness and outcomes, according to a case study released by SPS and New England Dairy & Food Council.

Providing breakfast and lunch at no cost for every student every day; partnering with local farms to serve the freshest of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products; and the development of a state-of-the-art culinary center are just a few of the initiatives behind Springfield Public Schools’ recognition. Entitled “Springfield Schools: When You Nourish, They Flourish – How a District Brought a Community Together to Elevate the School Meal Experience” the case study analyzes the district’s nutrition-centered approach to school meals, its collaborative methodology and the resulting positive impact those improvements have had on students.

Programs highlighted in the study include:

  • Breakfast in the Classroom provides students with a built-in opportunity to start every school day with a nutritious breakfast
  • The replacement of milk cartons with resealable plastic milk bottles
  • The Community Eligibility Provision allows for all students to eat at no cost and removes the social stigma of receiving free or reduced lunch
  • City-wide Summer Feeding programs provide students with convenient access to healthy lunches when school is not in session
  • Supper Programs provide meals for nutritionally at-risk students and their families outside of school breakfast and lunch hours
  • Backpack Programs provide meals for food-insecure students over weekends
  • Farm-to-School partnerships supply school cafeterias with fresh, locally-farmed food
  • School Gardens expose students to the farming experience, new foods and school meals made with homegrown ingredients
  • Composting and Recycling initiatives provide sustainability advantages that help both the earth and the district’s financial bottom line
  • The addition of a 62,000 square-foot Culinary & Nutrition Center in 2019 will usher in a new era of school nutrition. The Center will include a production and catering center, produce cutting and processing room, and bakery, supplying fresh foods and ingredients to schools daily

Superintendent of Schools Daniel Warwick said strong partnerships have been the cornerstone to the district’s success in school meal improvements. “Sodexo, our food service vendor, is staunchly committed to serving nutritious meals every day for every child,” said Warwick. “Without their work at the helm, these improvements would not have been possible. And we are also fortunate to have extremely beneficial, result-driven partnership with New England Dairy & Food Council. We are proud to call them our partner.”

Warwick said the district’s meal program is a focal point because studies clearly show a connection between good nutrition and student outcomes. “Our own data proves the same,” said Warwick. “Since implementing Breakfast in the Classroom, for example, we have experienced increases in academic performance and attendance and a decrease in tardiness and behavior issues. In fact, we currently lead the state when it comes to improvements in student performance.”

“We are pleased to work with the Springfield School District supporting its student nutrition and wellness initiative” said Diane Krol, RD, LDN, Program Manager, School Wellness at New England Dairy & Food Council.   “The dairy farmers of New England are committed to providing nutritious, local milk and dairy foods to help our school children succeed in school and open the door to a bright future.  We look forward to continuing to support this innovative approach in Springfield and other school districts across our region.”

“We’re thrilled National Dairy Council’s initiative with the Urban School Food Alliance, Nourish to Flourish, has helped uncover success stories like this one from Springfield Public Schools and New England Dairy & Food Council,” said Jean Ragalie-Carr, RDN, LDN, FAND, president of National Dairy Council. “Helping share this case study so other school districts can learn from this model that can help improve the school meal experience and enhance school wellness environments aligns with expectations to aim for excellence as we fuel our youth for success today and into the future,” added Ragalie-Carr.

In addition to looking at the programming developments of the Springfield Public Schools meals model, the case study also looks at the district’s success in creating a food service program that is financially sustainable and serves a variety of community and social needs, summarizing that: “Turning school meals into a shared community experience has obvious benefits for low-income children, but may help their more-advantaged peers too, in ways too difficult to measure: A greater sense of shared social goods, an enhanced understanding of how fundamental needs like nutrition tie us all together; a few minutes sharing a meal with someone from a different neighborhood, ethnicity or life history – it seems like a benefit for the entire community. It seems like a worthy mission for communities across the country.”

To see a pdf of the full report visit:  

For additional information about this project visit:

https://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/content/2017/nourish-to-flourish-scaling-up-school-meals

 

 

 

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