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City Council considers nutritious school lunches ordinance

The Boston City Council will seek legislation to encourage the city’s public schools to source food from local businesses. COURTESY OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE/ FLICKR

Boston City Councilors are working to adopt an ordinance which, upon approval, would allow Boston Public Schools to assess their current food distributors and favor companies that source locally grown food.

The ordinance, which City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu submitted in March, would make Boston one of the first cities in the United States to adopt the standards developed by the Center for Good Food Purchasing. The Good Food Purchasing program seeks to promote supporting local economies, healthy eating, fair labor policies, sustainability and proper treatment of animals.

Elena Carbone, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said the City should devote its taxpayer dollars toward any promising efforts to improve the quality of the food available to Boston’s students.

“This is all part of the students’ learning environment,” Carbone said. “They have to be healthy and have good food in order to be able to learn and grow.”

Emelia Andres, 25, of Allston, said she agrees with the need to source more food from local suppliers because the quality of the food available to students influences how much they will be able to learn in school.

“It’s important to pull food from local sources, and also the food at Boston public schools at times can be very pre-packaged,” Andres said. “If kids aren’t fed well, they aren’t going to learn, so I think it’s important to have kids well fed.”

Carbone said she approves of the Center for Good Food Purchasing’s push to convince cities and companies to increase their consumption of environmentally sustainable, organic food from local farmers.

“There is no question that locally sourced, humanely processed foods are better for the environment, better for the local economy,” Carbone said.

Carbone said if Boston’s educational institutions work together, they would be able to lower any prices which could result in the implementation of this initiative.

“I think that if more schools do it in Boston areas, they can work collectively, thereby perhaps reducing costs and some of the other challenges of coordination,” Carbone said. “There’s a lot of energy that goes into starting any program, and the more allies they can have the better it can be.”

Cory Covell, 23, of Allston, said he thinks the proposed ordinance is a positive idea, as long as it does not have a negative impact on school budgets.

“As long as you’re giving people good food and helping people, it sounds like a win-win,” Covell said. “Nutrition makes a big difference for people’s success.”

Kerry Richards, Wu’s policy director, wrote in an email that the ordinance will not be voted on during Wednesday’s Boston City Council meeting, which is the last session of 2018. Instead, Wu’s office will refile the proposal with the hope of seeing a vote in January or early February.

Annie Simpson, 58, of Dorchester, said she thinks it is important to teach children to make healthy choices at a young age.

“So it’s not just feeding them healthy meals,” Simpson said. “It’s setting them on a path to choose nutritious meals for life, and the food they’re eating now is also going to determine their health as they get older, so I think it’s a smart idea.”

Carbone said she thinks that if City Council succeeds in instituting the Center for Good Food Purchasing’s standards in Boston, it would reaffirm Massachusetts’ place at the forefront of public service.

“Massachusetts has been a leader in public health for centuries, since the beginning of public health,” Carbone said. “This would be another feather in their cap if they could be one of the first New England states to do it.”

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