New Fresh Food Pilot Program Comes to Eastie Schools

By John Lynds

Kitchen manager of East Boston High School Jennie Hall and EBHS Headmaster Phil Brangiforte help Chef Ken Oringer prepare fish tacos for students during the kickoff of a new pilot program at the High School that puts an emphasis on freshly prepared meals for students.

School lunch, usually frozen food that’s prepackaged and reheated for the masses, has historically not been the most appetizing meal for students. However, for thousands of low-income students it may be the lion’s share of nutrition these kids get during the day.

But what if school lunch was freshly made using healthy ingredients and cooked onsite?

This is what a partnership between the Shah Family Foundation and East Boston High School (EBHS) hopes to accomplish through a pilot program at East Boston High School with renowned Chef Ken Oringer.

At EBHS recently, Oringer, whose restaurants include Toro, Coppa, and Little Donkey, was at the High School showing the school’s Food and Nutrition staff how to prepare a baja fish taco dish as part of the Hub and Spoke pilot program in Eastie.

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 kitchens will allow EBHS to cook freshly prepared foods for the next four weeks. The High School’s full service kitchen will then feed students not only at EBHS but shipped the freshly cooked meals to three other Eastie schools– East Boston Early Education Center, Bradley Elementary, and Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary–that do not have full service kitchens.

“To me there is nothing more important than feeding kids delicious nutritional food, I have two kids myself I constantly preach to them the importance of healthy meals in order to feel great,” said Oringer. “Through this program we can start to show kids how to love food and how it can be nutritious and the highlight of the day.”

Oringer said he shared a ‘slew’ of recipes with EBHS head cook Jenny Hall.

“We are going to start with the fish tacos and now that we have the right equipment we’ve been working on getting for the school we can hopefully start with a bunch of new recipes for next year,” said Oringer. “The goal is to begin using all fresh ingredients that is both nutrias and interesting foods we’d serve in restaurants or cook at home. And if you purchase right and source things right fresh nutritious food is actually less expensive than pre-made processed foods.”

Deputy Director of BPS Food and Nutrition Deb Ventircelli said she’s excited to see food being, ‘taken out of the container’.

“Its a great program and we give huge thanks to the Shah Family Foundation for donating their time and money to this pilot program,” said  Ventircelli. “We hope to expand the program next year to include more local chefs and their recipes to begin upgrading the school lunch menus.”

EBHS Headmaster Phil Brangiforte added that not only were the ‘tacos great’ the students were excited to try something a little different than the regular school lunch.

“I think through this program we can make school lunch something that students are going to want or look forward to during the school day,” said Brangiforte.

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