By Laura Benavidez, Boston Public Schools Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services
“Buen provecho” is something my family always says at meal time. We say it after the family prayer and before we start to eat. In Spanish it means, “Enjoy your meal!” This is something I take to heart as the Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Boston Public Schools.
As I begin my new role, I reflect upon my experience receiving lunch as a child in a Head Start & Early Education program; and I remember my middle school and high school perceptions of the school meal program — observing in different ways those who received free and reduced lunch, and those who didn’t.
In my role, I have the responsibility of not only providing nutritious meals to help students learn, but also educating our students on making nutritious choices — highlighting the differences between foods that are processed, organic, antibiotic free, hormone free, and even their impact on the environment.
I come equipped with an educational and broad experience that prepares me to meet the needs of Boston as its Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services. My experience includes almost 10 years of internal experience in the Los Angeles Unified School District Food Services Division, where I served as Interim-Co Director and Deputy Director. My 15-year career in the food services industry has equipped me with the knowledge of all aspects of business with a focus on serving our most important customers — our students.
As the current executive director, I have the privilege and responsibility of overseeing the department and continue to develop a strategic plan to move the program forward. I thank Superintendent Tommy Chang, the EOS Foundation, as well as, Deb Ventricelli, deputy director for giving me this opportunity. She has overseen the reduction of a fiscal deficit, enhanced culture and positive relationships within the department, created training opportunities for staff, enhanced interpersonal communication, and developed relationships with stakeholders and with influencers throughout the school department and the city. I plan to continue her efforts and continue the growth of the program.I am looking forward to visiting every school site, getting to know our staff, our parents and our students. I want them to be honest with me and tell me why they participate or don’t participate in the meal program. What can we do to get them back into our services? What can we offer? When can we offer it? What will be appealing in this big world of choices?
I believe in Superintendent Tommy Chang’s vision of creating and offering amazing dining experiences for all Boston Public Schools students with healthy, delicious, sustainable meals. I am committed to child nutrition and the continuation of a meal program that can one day be the best program in the United States. It has been way too long - regulations and rules around the preparation of school meals should not get in the way of the quality of school meals. We have forgotten to enjoy our meal. We have forgotten to tell students “enjoy your food.” My goal for food and nutrition services is to do just that – remind students to enjoy their meal.