In Boston, School Lunch Is About to Get a Lot Healthier

Starting this fall, Revolution Foods will serve 40,000 "clean label" meals per day.

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Forget chicken nuggets and fish sticks. Starting in September, Boston Public Schools (BPS) students will be eating school lunches, reimagined.

During a time when the White House is relaxing nutrition regulations for school lunches, Boston has taken initiative and signed a $38 million contract with Revolution Foods, a California-based meal service program that specializes in connecting local producers with schools nationwide.

Laura Benavidez, executive director of the BPS Food and Nutrition Department, says she was looking for a company that shares BPS’ values: equity, innovation, and coherence.

“I wanted to make sure we emphasized that we wanted to be as fresh as possible, as local as possible, as innovative as possible, as equitable as possible,” Benavidez says, adding that her “personal philosophy is that eating well is not a privilege, it’s a right.”

The healthy meals will go a long way for BPS students, many of whom live at or below the poverty line. Over two-thirds of BPS schools also receive prepackaged meals, as opposed to those prepared on-site.

“I went out and saw all of our school [meals],” Benavidez says. “It is not as equitable when you’re preparing meals on-site than when you are getting it pre-made somewhere else and then delivered to your location.”

To close this gap in equitable nutrition, she and her team sent out proposals to companies that reflected their core values. She found Revolution Foods.

Kristin Richmond, co-founder of Revolution Foods, says her mission is to mold lifelong healthy eaters. And as a mother and someone who previously worked in education, she’s well aware of the link between nutrition and academic outcomes. Revolution Foods aims to close that gap by providing “affordable meals to all children to level the playing field and ensure that each student is able to receive ‘clean label’ food, which for us means no artificial anything in our ingredients,” she says.

Revolution Foods currently serves 25 campuses throughout Massachusetts, providing more than 15,000 meals daily.

The BPS contract is set to span three years and will add new jobs to the Boston area. It will also bring in partners like CommonWealth Kitchen, which provides business assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs; Community Servings, a nonprofit that delivers meals to the chronically ill; and Food Corps, which helps provide healthy foods to students.