Buffalo School parents, students push for new ‘Wellness Program,’ more healthy food options

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In a normal year, the Buffalo School District would serve around

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In a normal year, the Buffalo School District would serve around 29,000 meals a day through the Child Nutrition Program, which is mostly federally funded. Since the pandemic started, the Food Services Director, Bridget O’Brien Wood, said they have only been preparing between 10,000 to 12,000 meals a day.

“We get reimbursed for every meal we serve,” Wood said. “Because our meals have dropped significantly, we lost a lot of revenue because we don’t have the capacity to serve 29,000 kids if they are not in school.”

The school district participates in the National School Lunch Program that gives every student access to a free meal. That program requires a Wellness Policy that has not been updated in more than three years.

“It’s time to update it and get it back and running,” Wood said. “With everything in COVID, we lost some ground on where we were and where we want to get back to.”

The President of the Community Health Worker Parent Association, Jessica Bauer Walker, told 7 Eyewitness News that the district lost its focus on wellness during this school year.

“The kids are getting a lot more processed or reheated food,” Walker said. “We need to make sure we are putting investments in, so we can take advantage of programs, and if kids want to eat fruits and vegetables can get a salad every day.”

Walker said at least 30 Buffalo schools have gardens where the kids can grow and eat their own vegetables.

“They plant something, and they watch it grow and then they can taste it. That is a really empowering experience. We have our neighbors in the community that drag their houses over and water the garden for us.”

Walker said along with money from the general budget, she is also pushing for funding from the $232 million the district received from the American Rescue Fund.

“If we make sure the Central Food Service Kitchen is getting prepared, at full capacity, and all of our kitchens are getting repairs, it is a great investment, and it will benefit us for years to come,” Walker said.

Walker said she is also pushing to bring back a District Wellness Coordinator, a position that has been vacant this entire year.