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Feeding Families, Feeding Minds

Feeding Families, Feeding Minds
Posted on 11/28/2016

Food HeroIn October, two CPS Family Liaisons, Nancy Wyse and Greta Hardina were honored by the City of Cambridge with the 2016 “Food Hero” Award, in recognition of their innovative programs to address food insecurity among CPS students and families. Read on to learn more about their efforts, and about the hard work of many CPS schools to address hunger and fundamental family needs while strengthening relationships with our students and families. Supported by partnerships with Cambridge-based non-profit Food for Free, CPS families benefit from an array of programs, described below.

  • Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program: Every elementary school and Upper School offers weekend meals to identified students facing hunger or food insecurity. The program began as a volunteer-run pilot serving 10 students at Tobin Montessori School, growing to reach 475 K-8 students across CPS. Founder and CPS Parent Alanna Mallon now works full-time for Food For Free, coordinating these efforts and building an ever-expanding array of programs that reduce hunger while strengthening family-school partnerships. 

  • Monthly Food Markets provide fresh produce and food staples to families at four locations, serving seven school communities.

  • K-Lo/CSUS Market: On the last Wednesday afternoon of each month, K-Lo/CSUS Market offers free fresh produce and food staples for the entire school community. There’s no paperwork or special qualification required, and the fun and festive atmosphere feels more like a community farmer’s market than like a traditional food pantry. Families from Kennedy-Longfellow, Cambridge Street Upper School, Kennedy Community Schools, and senior citizens from neighborhood are all welcome. Parents and Upper School Students are invited to volunteer as well as shop, and community resources set up tables and offer services. A variety of local agencies have set up tables at the market -- including the CPS Title 1 Program, City of Cambridge Fuel Assistance programs, Comcast Internet Essentials, the DHSP Summer Meals Program and Book Bike, and Cradles to Crayons.

  • The Peabody / Rindge Avenue Upper Campus Food Market takes place on  the third Thursday of each month. This highly anticipated and attended event is among the highlights of the school’s family engagement efforts. Food for Free provides all the food -- including beautiful, fresh fruits and vegetables; pantry items, eggs, milk, meats, pasta and so much more. Our many volunteers provide a lovely shopping atmosphere. A Peabody Parent who is also a professional chef is on hand serving an item made with some of the market items available that month. Samples of the recipe are also made available. This market is visited by our families and staff. 

  • The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /Putnam Avenue Upper School Open Market is held on the first Friday of the month from 3:30 - 5PM. Farm fresh fruits and vegetables are arranged along side an array of dried goods and proteins. The market is open and available to all in the community. Come by and "shop" for free! Cradles to Crayons is also a partner and is at every other market taking orders for clothing in sizes birth to 12 yrs old. The next market is Friday, December 2nd and Cradles to Crayons will be at the January 6th market.

  • The Graham & Parks Food Market is held the second Thursday of every month from 2:15 - 4:30PM. All Graham and Parks' parents, teachers, and staff, as well as local community members are welcome and encouraged to attend. Visitors can stop by to pick up some free fresh vegetables and fruit and great staples like cereal, pasta, rice, and beans. Not sure how to cook something from our market, like spaghetti squash? No problem, we have recipes posted to give you ideas! We often have free books, which the students always love. Thanks to a new partnership with Cradles to Crayons, families are also able to request free like-new clothes for their children as well as donate clothes to help other families. Weather permitting, we can have the market outside in our courtyard, for that great Farmer's Market feel! Other resources, such as the Title 1 Program, WIC, and the Fuel Assistance Program have set up resource tables as well. The market is made possible by Food for Free, the Mayor's Office, and our fabulous staff and volunteers! 

  • Falcons Food Project: Recognizing the higher degree of independence among high school students, CRLS Family Liaison Greta Hardina worked with Food for Free to develop a different model for high school families. The Falcons Food Project was established through a faculty innovation grant from the Friends of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, to "provide nutrition but also get to know CRLS’s most vulnerable students and make sure they are receiving other services that may be available in the community." The project is truly ‘owned’ by the students -- who volunteer their time to organize and stock the shelves of an open food pantry located in the school office. Students can stop by at any time and discretely pick up whatever they need.  

These programs are made possible by the generosity and support of Cambridge-based Food for Free and the Food for Free Weekend Backpack Program. Families looking to make holiday donations to charities that address local hunger may wish to learn more about their inspiring work with CPS and our larger community.