Holyoke Public Schools awarded $500,000 grant to improve food security infrastructure
Holyoke Public Schools was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to help address food insecurity issues at Holyoke High School North.
The Massachusetts Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program seeks to ensure local food producers are better connected to a robust and resilient food supply system that will help mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption issues. HPS is one of 147 grant recipients who were awarded a combined $22.5 million in this round of funding to address food insecurity issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
HPS will improve student access to healthy foods in three key areas: cold storage, food preparation, and food distribution. More specifically, grant funds will be used to:
- Replace a large combination refrigerator and freezer in the HHS North Campus production kitchen;
- Purchase and install an emergency power backup generator on the North Campus to ensure perishable foods can be kept chilled or frozen and that meals can be prepared and served even when power is out in the community; and
- Purchase a mobile food truck to distribute meals at both high school campuses, as well as at bus stops, summer feeding sites, and other community locations as needed.
HPS will be able to consistently prepare and store greater amounts of foods for student meals thanks to the added storage capacity provided by the replacement refrigerator/freezer at North. The generator will help prevent cold-storage foods from spoiling and allow food production to continue during power interruptions. The generator will also allow the school to serve as an emergency shelter and feeding location during emergencies, if needed.
The food truck will be an especially important tool for boosting student participation in summer feeding programs, allowing more children to have regular access to healthy meals even when school is not in session. These improved meal participation rates will in turn increase the federal meal reimbursements the district is eligible to receive, which will help sustain the program long after the grant ends. The food truck is also intended to reduce the stigma associated with free lunch. Sometimes people who need food the most don’t know how or won’t access the food program because they don’t want a public reminder that they are poor, or they can’t because of geographic isolation.