By Mary Stein
Delicious grilled chicken slices on a bed of freshly harvested greens. Just picked strawberries bursting with the flavor of summer sunshine. This isn’t how I remember cafeteria lunches as a kid, but it is a wonderful reality for the children participating in Milton Town, Vermont's summer food service program in, who I was lucky to share lunch with last week.
Milton school food service director Steve Marinelli and his team provide 340 daily summer meals at four different sites in the community. All of the summer food service sites are linked to activities (sports camp, gardening club, cooking classes and more), which increases participation rates and expands the reach of this delicious bounty.
Marinelli arrived in Milton a few years back along with a new superintendent, John Barone. With a shared vision centered on the importance of healthy food to foster learning and mental/physical growth, the duo have built a remarkable year-round program that supports children, families and the community.
The partnership around good food for kids in Milton now extends well beyond Marinelli and Barone. The Milton Community Task Force is a local coalition that has helped secure funding from a variety of sources and bridged an important relationship with the local hospital to further support healthy living in Milton. A USDA Farm to School grant has allowed the district to bring on a farm to school educator, Brook Gannon, to expand local procurement and experiential learning opportunities for children.
This concerted effort to connect children to healthy, fresh food is paying off in Milton. Test scores have risen and discipline incidents have declined. Participation rates in school and summer meals are up, with more kids and more teachers and staff enjoying the delicious change. To learn more, visit Milton Town School District Food Services' website.