By Jim Clark
Children in Somerville’s elementary schools and the Capuano Early Childhood Center partook in an annual tradition aimed at educating them in the value of good nutrition last week, while having a ton of fun shucking corn in the morning and enjoying it on their lunch menu shortly afterwards.
On Thursday, October 3, the shucking activities also included the first ever Food & Nutrition Services Staff Appreciation Day. A breakfast was served at each school in honor of the daily work of FNS staff does in providing healthy meals to Somerville students.
According to Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi, “Somerville’s Food and Nutrition Services Department is a national leader in promoting healthy eating through innovative programs and education. The annual corn-shucking event is just one of the many ways in which our Food & Nutrition Services staff teach our students the tremendous value of healthy eating. Not only is our Food & Nutrition Services staff ensuring students are ready for a full day of learning by providing them with nutritious meals, they’re also fostering healthy nutritional habits that will last them a lifetime.”
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone agreed. “Our Food & Nutrition Services Staff are vital to the daily lives and nurturing of our students, providing them with fresh and healthy meals in our schools, and they do so with happiness and pride that exudes confidence and keeps our young residents motivated to be healthy and eat well,” said the mayor. “We are fortunate to have some of the best staff in the nation helping us to continue our leadership in the fight against childhood obesity, and they are one of the reasons Somerville is seen as a model for school food service and curriculum. I want to sincerely thank each member of the staff for their hard work and passion for the important role they play in our community and across the country.”
“Between preparing healthy meals for our students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, and offering service with a smile, it’s no wonder we’re celebrating the Food and Nutrition Services staff,” Lauren Mancini, Food & Nutrition Services Director commented. “Every student we serve deserves and receives the highest quality food possible. The students we care for are a constant inspiration to do our best today and to strive to do better tomorrow. Our goal is to offer and serve Somerville students the best quality meal so they are able to enter the classroom ready to learn and succeed.”
The Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) department works tirelessly, providing healthy and nutritious food and beverage choices to students, while working with Somerville’s nationally-renowned Shape Up Somerville to help students make the healthy choice their first choice, and a lifestyle choice.
“This day acknowledges the excellent work every day from the Food and Nutrition Services staff. Eating balanced, nutritious meals at school (both breakfast and lunch) is crucial to students performing better in the classroom,” said Shape Up Somerville Director, David Hudson. “Somerville Public Schools is a national leader when it comes to school food, and we’re proud to support the staff of Food and Nutrition Services.”
Students throughout the district participate in Somerville’s universal breakfast program, and benefit from an outstanding lunch program that includes tasty and nutritious meals that are, in many cases, prepared with locally or regionally sourced products. Among the choices at most schools are a fresh salad bar option and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Several schools also participate in the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program, which introduces students to the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables with a mid-afternoon fresh fruit or vegetable snack.
Students kicked off the day with ears of corn to shuck, which they enjoyed as steaming corn on the cob at lunch later that day. This year, along with learning the delicious value of fresh, locally-sourced produce, they were also reminded of the “behind the scenes” staff members who help make sure they’re ready to learn every day by preparing meals to help them stay healthy and focused on learning.
“The value we collectively place on children and their health and wellness speaks volumes,” said Mancini. “My principal goals have always been and will continue to be to improve the nutritional quality of school meals while teaching students about the importance of healthful eating. I personally want to say ‘thank you’ to my staff for their hard work and dedication.”