HAYDEN J EMRAH
At their November meeting, the North Adams School Board members spoke with Food Services Director Erin Stewart, who provided updates on the school district’s expansion of food offerings across Decatur.
North Adams Community Schools (NACS) offers free lunch to those under 18 in the city, and this year saw the expansion of their program to include both St. Joe and Grace Fellowship’s VBS programs, helping to provide more meals to more children at seven different sites across the city. Overall, the summer meal program provided 3,514 meals over the course of the season, averaging 95 meals a day. Stewart noted that their site meals at the community pool have fallen considerably, and that it has been a trend over the past couple of years.
As for their school year food offerings, NACS offers breakfast and lunch at their daycare, elementary, middle and high schools, as well as St. Joe and Zion Lutheran. Currently, their services are providing around 1,500 meals a day, with Stewart adding that the number tends to go up after the winter break, presumably due to the cold weather.
This year, Bellmont elementary and middle schools have been providing free breakfast and lunch everyday, as well as providing free breakfast to high schoolers. This has led to a 50% increase in school food participation, and goes a long way to ensuring that children in the city are provided meals. The idea behind offering free breakfast in the high school is that it could potentially reduce disciplinary action, as students who come to school hungry might be more prone to negative classroom behavior.
Stewart ended her presentation to the board by providing some insights on the supply side of their food services, saying that upcoming changes in what qualifies as nutritional options might limit the school’s ability to provide a varied breakfast with things like french toast, pancakes and toaster pastries. Lastly, she recounted her experience at a national food service conference in French Lick, IN, and that the food services program is preparing for an administrative review over the months of October and November. The school board thanked Stewart for her time, commenting on her diligence to provide creative meal offerings that meet national standards.