By John Lynds
In front of a packed audience at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, Mayor Martin Walsh took the Oath of Office for the second time as Mayor of Boston and vowed to expand the city’s school lunch pilot program that began in East Boston to all Boston Public Schools. Walsh was administered the oath for his second term by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Kimberly Budd with former Vice President Joseph Biden presiding over the ceremony.
Following the swearing in, Walsh delivered his Inaugural Address where he thanked Biden for his service to our country, and for what Walsh called an “example of compassionate leadership and uncommon strength at a time when we surely need it.”
Before laying out his vision for Boston in second term Walsh also singled out newly elected Boston City Councilors, which includes East Boston’s District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards.
“To the members of the Boston City Council, especially Councilors Lydia Edwards, Kim Janey, and Edward Flynn: welcome, and congratulations to you and your families,” said Walsh. “I look forward to working with all of you on Boston’s future.”
Walsh, who arguably had a very successful first term as Mayor of Boston and was easily reelected in November, focused on taking Boston to ‘new heights’ in his speech. Walsh said he plans to expand existing education programs that are working, rebuilding school infrastructure, increasing affordable housing opportunities for residents, and tackling the opioid epidemic here and across the city.
One program Walsh touched upon in his speech is the widely successful school lunch pilot program that began in Eastie last year. The program aims to bring freshly prepared school lunches to students instead of the current program that is mostly frozen prepackaged processed lunches that are simply heated up by school cafeteria staff.
“We’re also going to scale up our new food pilot program that’s working at East Boston High School (EBNHS) , the Kennedy School, the Bradley School, and East Boston Early Education Center, until every student gets at least two fresh, nutritious meals, every day, all across the district,” said Walsh.
For thousands of low-income students, school lunch is the lion’s share of nutrition students get during the day.
Towards the end of the last school year Boston Public Schools teamed up with the Shah Family Foundation and EBHS to launch the fresh school lunch pilot program. With the help of renowned Chef Ken Oringer, whose restaurants include Toro, Coppa, and Little Donkey, the school’s food and nutrition staff were shown how to prepare fresh school lunches as part of the pilot program.
Through a grant from the Shah Family Foundation EBHS has replaced its older warming ovens used to heat plastic-wrapped food, with Welbilt ‘combi-ovens’ that can not only reheat but cook and steam foods. The school also received freezers, a refrigerator, and three basin sinks. This new kitchen allows EBHS to cook freshly prepared foods that not only feed students at EBHS but are also shipped to the three other Eastie schools Walsh mentioned– East Boston Early Education Center, Bradley Elementary, and the Kennedy Elementary.
“As we modernize infrastructure, we’ll continue to strengthen academic pathways through every grade. But turning education into opportunity goes beyond school walls,” said Walsh. “Our young people need and deserve access to the global network of higher learning that flows through their own city. So we’ll be calling on Boston’s world-renowned colleges and universities to play a bigger role.”
Eastie has been hit hard by the decade-long opioid crisis. Numerous deaths in the neighborhood can be attributed to the scourge of opioid prescription addiction as well as addiction to heroin.
Monday Walsh pledged to tackle the crisis head on by developing a state-of-the art facility
“Every single person deserves security, dignity, and hope,” said Walsh, who is a recovering alcoholic. “Those suffering from addiction, and those experiencing homelessness, are no less deserving than anyone of a place in our middle-class community. In 2014, for the safety of our most vulnerable residents, we were forced to close the Long Island Bridge. At the same time, we opened a door to long-overdue reforms in how Boston provides human services for our region. I want to make one thing clear: the opioid crisis and homelessness are not the same. They each require a unique, comprehensive response. That’s why we created an Office of Recovery Services to expand access to treatment. Recovery requires a continuum of care—from detox, to residential treatment, to transitional housing—to reclaim your life. For many people, including myself, Long Island played a vital role in Boston’s recovery landscape. And it will again. Today I pledge to you that we will rebuild the bridge. And we will create, on Long Island, the comprehensive, long term recovery campus that our city and state need more than ever, to tackle the opioid crisis.”
On Boston’s soaring housing prices and rents, Walsh pledged to do more to help curb the incidents of residents being forced out of neighborhoods.
“But with our city’s population growing even faster and a regional housing shortage adding pressure, too many families are still being priced out of too many neighborhoods,” said Walsh. “We are determined to meet this challenge by redoubling our efforts.Recently I stood with mayors from across Greater Boston to commit to a regional housing plan. By March, we will announce the number of new homes the region needs. As a leader in this strategy, we will increase our city’s targets for low-income homes, moderate-income homes, senior housing, and overall units. We will meet these goals by following your vision in Imagine Boston 2030: transit-oriented development, mixed-income growth in new neighborhoods, and protecting and enhancing our existing communities. We will draw on new resources for affordable housing from the Community Preservation Act which you supported. To serve those in the greatest need, we will invest in public housing like never before. And as college enrollment increases, we will insist on new dorms that leave more neighborhood homes open to working families. With new targets driving us forward, a regional plan promising help from our neighbors, and the Legislature working on a housing bond bill, we recommit to making affordable homes a reality for a strong middle class.”
In the end Walsh said Monday marked another step forward as a city that is, “mindful of our history as a city of purpose and progress; optimistic about our future; and determined to fulfill a vision that grows with each generation.”
“We are more than “a city upon a hill, with the eyes of all people upon us.” We are a city built by all the peoples of the world, as they turn hunger into hope, crisis into recovery, and conflict into community,” said Walsh. “Together we have built a city of neighborhoods that care, a city of second chances, a city of learning and healing, a city of courage and creativity, a city of heart and hope. We are one of the great cities of the world and, after nearly four centuries, our greatest days are yet to come.”