The pilot project is designed as a partnership between a private not-for-profit, the Shah Family Foundation, and the publicly governed Boston Public Schools. The goal is to revolutionize the school food system through a combination of tactical, data-driven investment, and a reframing of the institutional strategy for preparing and serving food that can be used as a model throughout the city.
Seeing an opportunity for inclusion in the BuildBPS city project, the Foundation has a year in which to research, develop and test out their theory that its possible to serve fresh meals, cooked from scratch, within the federal reimbursement rate.
Jill Shah recognizes that to serve fresh nutritious meals requires every school to have a kitchen. Our characters must figure out how to create affordable renovations to ancient school buildings, utilizing the latest in culinary technology to enable these schools to work with fresh ingredients with a small staff and tight schedule.
THE OVERALL BUDGET FOR FOOD SERVICES WITHIN BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS IS AROUND $30 MILLION PER ANNUM. BPS MEETS THE COMMUNITY ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS WHICH, WITH OVER 70% OF STUDENTS IN THE DISTRICT ON OR BELOW THE POVERTY LINE, ALLOWS EVERY STUDENT IN THE DISTRICT ACCESS TO FREE MEALS. AT THE TIME OF THE PILOT PROJECT, STUDENTS ARE UNDER UTILISING THE FREE MEALS. IF MORE STUDENTS CAN BE ENCOURAGED TO TAKE A MEAL, THE BUDGET FOR THE DISTRICT WILL INCREASE AND THERE WILL BE MORE MONEY IN THE POT. THE SHAH FOUNDATION/BPS has TO FIND A WAY TO BUY, KEEP, AND DISTRIBUTE FRESH INGREDIENTS WITHIN THE FEDERAL REIMBURSEMENT RATE OF $3.28 PER LUNCH. MOREOVER, SCHOOL LUNCH HAS THE MOST RIGOROUS SAFETY REGULATIONS OF ANY FOOD-RELATED INDUSTRY. THE PILOT HAS TO MEET ALL OF THESE SAFETY REGULATIONS AS IT HIRES NEW STAFF AND DEVELOPS NEW METHODS OF PROCUREMENT, TRANSPORT, AND PREPARATION. .
After all of the logistics are worked out and the budgets balanced, the food will be less expensive through better methods of procurement but local labour costs will increase with more people involved on the ground. the pilot will ultimately rely on the people running it - from the line workers in the cafeteria all the way up to the mayor himself, every member of this chain will have to buy in and learn some new tricks if the pilot is to succeed in delivering fresh and healthy food safely, and within the public school budget.
East Boston is chosen as the location to test out the pilot. An area with a large working class and a high immigrant population, it’s a ‘good example of really bad’ in terms of building age and facilities. East Boston High has a full service kitchen feeding 1200 students daily, but the PJ Kennedy and Bradley elementary schools have little or no facilities for cooking and storing fresh food. With the East Boston Early Learning Center they rely on vended meals for their students.
With the success of the pilot, the plan is to put new kitchens into every school across the district and have Boston truly cooking for boston. The mayor announces that 30 schools will have new kitchens in the first year after the pilot and a further 32 are scheduled. Through a collaboration of private enterprise and public commitment, ‘My Way Cafes’ will eventually be operative in each of 125 schools in the boston district.