Farm to School Initiative team looks to improve food system sustainability



The Farm to School Initiative team presented to community members on Tuesday, June 7 on its progress this year and plans for the future.

The Farm to School Initiative team presented to community members in the STEM Commons on Tuesday, June 7 to share their work for the current school year and discuss plans for the future.

The Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) launched the Farm to School Initiative in the fall of 2021 after joining the Massachusetts Farm to School Institute. The initiative aims to address climate change, food justice and health and well-being, specifically in terms of how students interact with food systems at school.

Representative from the Massachusetts Farm to School Institute Kendra Dawsey said the organization helps support districts in promoting healthy communities through thinking about food.

“Farm to School seeks to make sure students have access to healthy foods in their schools and also makes sure that schools source more locally, while also trying to get students interested in thinking about where food comes from and how it is grown,” Dawsey said.

Social Studies teacher and team member Roger Grande said the team plans to carry out their vision through focusing on the cafeteria, community and curriculum.

According to Head of Food Services and team member Sasha Palmer, the cafeteria has made notable progress in using more sustainable practices in the last year.

“We are continuously looking for ways to improve the cafeteria, specifically through composting and going as far as we can to be a zero waste program,” Palmer said. “We also received funding to eliminate single use items and a grant to purchase dishwashers for schools that did not already have them.”

Grande said the team plans to focus on transforming the cafeteria into a learning space where the diversity of the student body can be reflected in the menu.

“One of the things that we say a lot at school is that we want students to see themselves represented. We definitely want that to include the cafeteria and what we’re serving,” Grande said.

Grande also said it is necessary to get more students involved in the work of the Farm to School program.

“We know that there are other students who are interested and are active,” Grande said. “One thing we’d love to do, depending on how many people can put time in next year, is to have a student-driven initiative, possibly focusing on something around sustainability learning or some sort of research project.”

Pierce School teacher and team member Lauren Ockene said though much of the work Farm to School has done so far has been volunteer-based, it is crucial for the team to think about developing effective communication with administrators in the future to bring about larger district-wide change.

“It feels like there’s so much that as volunteers we can provide a droplet in the bucket, and it really needs to be coming from the town and the administration,” Ockene said. “Whether it’s climate change curriculum, composting or the water systems, change has to come from above.”