Buffalo Public Schools have offered free grab-and-go meals ever since students began remote learning at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Now, combining two of the biggest trends in the culinary industry, it’s offering locally sourced meals on a new food truck.
BPS unveiled its “Farm to School to You” food truck Wednesday morning outside West Hertel Academy. The truck will make the rounds to all of the district’s 48 grab-and-go sites, offering a free supplemental hot lunch made with locally raised beef and locally grown vegetables.
“We're very happy that our children are going to have this opportunity throughout virtual learning to come out to the food sites and have this wonderful meal on the food truck,” said Bridget O’Brien-Wood, BPS director of child nutrition services.
The truck is a continuation of the district’s Farm to School program launched in 2014, and was possible through a $98,000 grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Meals from the truck, which include nachos, hot dogs and rice bowls, use beef raised by Empire State Farms and beans grown in Genesee Valley. The tomatoes, lettuce and bell peppers were grown by Groundwork Market Garden, an urban farm in Buffalo.
“We are so thrilled that we're able to have women-owned urban farms coming together with our farms across New York state,” O’Brien-Wood said.
The truck will also offer a learning experience for students in the district’s culinary arts programs, said Katie Schuta, principal of the Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management.
“Our goal is to give our students the most relevant and up-to-date culinary trends, and this opportunity combines two of the hottest movements in culinary: food trucks and farm to table,” she said.
BPS’ grab-and-go meals have been serving about 12,000 meals a day. There’s nearly 30,000 students in the school system, 83% of whom are economically disadvantaged, according to state data.
“There's a lot of families that don't have food, a lot of families that don't have resources, and this is what's helping them out,” said Dalilah Berroa, who has been grabbing meals for her two young daughters, ages 4 and 5, since March.
Berroa usually gets cold or frozen lunches from the grab-and-go sites, but on Wednesday, she was the first parent in line for the BPS food truck. She got her daughters some hot dogs and beef nachos.
“They'll be very excited,” she said with a laugh.
The grab-and-go sites, and the food truck, are available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Parents can get a meal for every child under 18 in their household.