Changes await BPS students heading back to school 

Boston Public School students head back to the classrooms early Thursday morning— some of them getting there via new bus routes, eating new meals at lunch, and having a slightly longer school day— just a few of the new changes being rolled out for the upcoming year.

The BPS signed a three-year contract with Revolution Foods this year, which will provide breakfast and lunch to 85 district schools without in-service kitchens, school officials said.

The district serves an average of 64,000 meals a school day— and 25,000 meals will be prepared by Revolution Foods for schools without full-service kitchens, BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang said at a press conference Friday. 

“One key priority is making sure that our young people are getting healthy and appetizing meals throughout the school day that fuel their learning. And, for some of our students, it may actually be the only meals they get throughout the entire day. And we know that when students are not hungry, they learn more,” Chang said.

“Eating well is not a privilege, it’s a right,” said Laura Benavidez, BPS Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services.

Revolution Foods has cooked up a new menu for students featuring options like chef salad with a yogurt ranch dressing and spaghetti and meatballs made with beef, rice flour, and wheat flour noodles.

Revolution Foods meets the BPS standard, Benavidez said, so all the meals served will be free of artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and trans fats.

Though the new partnership with Revolution Foods, the BPS aims to increase the number of schools that participate in their “Breakfast in the Classroom” initiatives throughout the year, which gives students an opportunity to eat breakfast after the bell has rung, officials said.

Seventeen schools are currently involved in the program, including four in Dorchester, according to the BPS.

The William E. Russell Elementary School in Dorchester is part of the “Breakfast in the Classroom” initiative and serves 329 breakfasts daily, which accounts for just above 90 percent of the students, school officials said.

According to BPS data, 78.9 percent of the students at the Russell are “economically disadvantaged” and 6.7 percent of the students are homeless. 

BPS estimates that roughly 31,000 of the 57,000 in the district students to not currently participate in the free breakfast program offered. The hope is that “Breakfast in the Classroom” will increase the number of students who eat a healthy and filling breakfast on a daily basis, Benavidez said.

According to the BPS, 73 percent of their students are considered “economically disadvantaged,” and they have found that students who are well-fed perform better academically.

As part of the Excellence for All program, BPS will add 120 more hours of learning time to 38 district schools— the equivalent of 20 school days, Chang said.

Additionally, bus routes have been modified thanks to an algorithm produced by a team at MIT. The district spent the week leading up the start of school executing dry-runs of the new routes, officials said. 

Over the course of the year, the new bus routes are expected to cut one million miles from last year’s bus route, substantially reducing the district’s carbon emissions, Chang said. 

“Whether our students are new or returning to BPS, all of them should know they will be embraced by safe, welcoming and sustaining learning environments. Our teachers care deeply about ensuring that every student can flourish and has the skills to succeed in college, career, and in life,” Chang said in a statement.