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Mayor Walsh visits Kenny Elementary for My Way Cafe


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Food Access

During his visit at the Dorchester school in the spring, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the school will transition to a My Way Cafe cafeteria in the fall, along with 30 other schools in Dorchester and South Boston.

The My Way Cafe model, operated by Boston Public School’s Food and Nutrition Services and funded by the Shah Family Foundation, is a model where schools prepare food themselves in their own kitchens and give students a choice in what they want to eat, similar to fast casual restaurants, such as Chipotle. Mayor Walsh discussed how he had seen it running in East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury, and how happy students were to be eating the new food. He asked questions of students in the audience, getting them excited for the new cafeteria that they will experience next year.

Meals will still be provided at no cost to all Boston Public Schools students, which has been the case since 2014. Since 80 percent of families are determined economically disadvantaged, the district qualifies for free school meals for all students. The goal of this program is to have students taking and eating the food so that they can benefit. Interim Superintendent Laura Perille spoke as well about why this makes school food so crucial to students’ success. She reminded onlookers that the ability to choose is an important element as well, as students are more likely to participate in something they have a say in.

Finally, Jill Shah, president of the Shah Family Foundation which provides a majority of the funding for this program, had four students do an unveiling of what the cafeteria blueprint looks like now, versus what it will look like after the construction this summer. A wall will be knocked down in the back of the cafeteria to provide room for more ovens, sinks, and other appliances required to prepare fresh food on site. Since the Kenny and two-thirds of other Boston Public schools were built before World War II, when students walked home for lunch, these schools have no kitchens. She said that she was proud that the City is investing $7.9 million to expand this program to about 30 more schools next year.

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Some of the favorite dishes by students at other My Way Cafe schools that started this year or earlier include: the choice of spaghetti pasta with tomato sauce or meatballs or both, along with a vegetable side, a choice of cheese on top of the pasta, and other vegetable options. There is also a day where students can choose between a hamburger, cheeseburger, or grilled cheese, with potato wedges and corn on the cob on the side. There will be a salad bar available every day, with options for yogurt parfaits or different fruits for breakfast. The students are very excited to try the new food items and I get asked questions about them constantly.

This post was written by Sarah Curless, FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member at the Thomas J. Kenny School.