By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – When one person sets out to help others, great things can happen. But when people work together, the results can be amazing. Worcester County residents need only look as far as the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) for an example. The Shrewsbury nonprofit organization’s donation of a refrigerated food truck to the Worcester public schools’ Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helped it to provide nutritious meals to more kids in need.
When Stop & Shop’s Our Family Foundation offered the WCFB a funding opportunity for a children’s nutrition program, WCFB Executive Director Jean G. McMurray called Donna Lombardi, the director of child nutrition for Worcester public schools. Since less than 20 percent of eligible children take advantage of the SFSP – a federally funded program that offers free meals to children – Lombardi proposed the idea of acquiring a refrigerated food truck. This would help reach more children, bringing a healthy selection of meals twice a day to recreational sites in the city.
McMurray applied for the funding and was able to purchase a truck for the Worcester public schools’ 2013 SFSP. The new addition to the program was so successful that it was expanded this summer, and WCFB is donating a second truck for next year.
“During the second year, we not only expanded the number of sites served, we also expanded menu offerings to include very popular yogurt parfaits with granola in addition to the standard items of sandwiches on whole grain, locally sourced fresh produce and cold bottled milk,” Lombardi said.
The expanded number of sites, including all the Worcester public libraries, helped the program to provide three times as many free meals in July and August – over 13,000. Lombardi describes the food truck as “absolutely invaluable.”
“The ability to mobilize and hold up to 800 fresh meals at safe temperatures with the refrigerated truck has enabled the program to serve nutrient rich foods at a variety of remote locations – where fresh food and facilities needed to prepare or hold [food] are scarce,” she said.
Because people from the WCFB, Worcester Public Schools, Stop & Shop’s Our Family Foundation, Worcester Public Library, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation came together with local volunteers, more children were able to enjoy healthy meals this summer and are returning to school ready to learn. No child was turned away.
“We’re here to help people year-round,” McMurray said. “We’re happy to help!”