Each year, CISA presents Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, or individuals who exemplify their mission of strengthening farms and engaging the community to build the local food economy. All award winners are applauded for their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture.
Mrs. Lennon gratefully accepted the award and dedicated it to the hard-working staff and managers in our school kitchens and farm to school program coordinators.
CISA's profile on Mrs. Lennon notes that she and her talented staff built a farm to school program in the Chicopee school district that stands as a model of how public schools can introduce food sourced from local farms into their menus and integrate farm and garden education into their classrooms. When she took over as Chicopee’s Food Service Director in 1991, the district’s lunchrooms were serving mostly convenience foods: “from the freezer to the oven,” says Mrs. Lennon. Improving the quality of the food by reintroducing scratch cooking was the first order of business, and luckily the schools were still equipped with fully functional (if outdated) kitchens and run by staff with cooking expertise.
Although Joanne’s farm to school work goes back 15 years, it remained a relatively small part of the school district’s purchasing until several years ago. “I always tried to buy a little more local every year, and then four years ago Chicopee Public Schools got a grant from the Kendall Foundation for ChicopeeFRESH, a new program that enabled us to make more connections, set up systems that could be copied by other school districts, and do this work on a larger scale. We went from 1-2% local to 15-18% local because we were able to hire someone to concentrate on this process,” says Mrs. Lennon. “It’s clear to everyone—the administration, parents, staff, students—that this work is a huge asset to the whole community, so now we have a permanent Sustainability Coordinator!”
Read the rest of CISA's profile on Mrs. Lennon and ChicopeeFRESH on their website: https://www.buylocalfood.org/2018-local-hero-awardee-joanne-lennon-chicopee-public-schools/