Karen A. Spiller appointed new BCFF Project Director

Karen A. Spiller
A Lifelong advocate of healthy communities for all people

The Boston Collaborative for Food & Fitness proudly announces the appointment of Karen A. Spiller as our new Project Director.

We are very fortunate to have found that new leader from within our own membership! BCFF members know Karen, as she has been actively involved in the Collaborative since our founding meeting in July 2006. 

Karen is currently co-chair of the Interim Steering Committee, leads the Fund Development Committee, and has previously served on the Executive Committee. 
 
Karen begins as Project Director on Monday, June 28.  You can reach her at her new office at the Boston Public Health Commission at kspiller@bphc.org or 617-534-2647 to welcome her directly.
 
And while you probably know Karen, you may not know the extent of the skills and experience she brings to her new role.  So please read on!

About Karen

Karen Spiller has always been committed to creating sustainable systems to ensure the optimal health and quality of life for all Boston and Massachusetts residents. Her strong commitment to social justice and passion for addressing health inequities is why she has remained committed to the creation and continued work of the BCFF.

Karen brings with her over twenty years of experience in program development and training, resource development, health education, health promotion and health care research.

Karen has worked with a diversity of stakeholders in Massachusetts, including community residents and businesses, state and local agencies, policy makers, corporations, foundations, community-based organizations, schools and physicians.  This experience, particularly in the areas of health promotion and relationship building across disciplines anchors her contributions as a health educator and advocate.

As a member of the Disparities Leadership Program inaugural class (a program of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Disparities Solution Center), Karen has helped to develop quality and culturally competent health programs in community and corporate settings.  

Karen is also actively involved with national public health organizations. She has served as a Trustee of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) since 2007 and has taken a leadership role in the SOPHE chapter development initiative. 

Karen serves on city and statewide committees such as the Communities Putting Prevention to Work CDC program, Massachusetts Wellness Promotion Advisory Board and the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition.  She has also proudly served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Food Project, The Women’s Lunch Place, Massachusetts Federation of Farmers Markets, the Massachusetts African American Heritage Bike Route and Heading Home.

For more than four years at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Karen was a Program Manager for Jump Up & Go! ®, a multidimensional campaign addressing childhood obesity. Karen oversaw its clinical and community-based aspects, created programming and actively served on several cross-functional teams within Blue Cross and externally.

Karen is a graduate of Western Michigan University and has begun graduate study toward a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Boston University.

School Food Tasting on Friday, June 18

On Friday, June 18, 2010 some of the Boston Public School students got the privilege to attend a school food tasting by Sodexo. I and Holden Pierre of the YAB attended on behalf of the BCFF. Sodexo is a food service management company. The school food tasting was held at Tech Boston Academy in Dorchester. The cooks provided many samples of foods that where “healthy” and “fresh” for the students to taste in order to get feedback about what we thought. They provided samples of what Sodexo would give for breakfast, lunch and different options if they work in Boston Public Schools. Also, they presented side desserts of fruits, and fruit or vegetable salads.

Everything was nicely prepared and looked very good. I was there with YAB since we are trying to improve school food and we went prepared to taste and ask questions because the future is in our hands. We need to make sure that they are going to give us what they put on the tables for us to try. Everyone can say one thing and not follow-up with it and that’s exactly what we don’t want to happen. The food that we eat is very important to us, especially what’s served in school so that it can help students have energy and perform well during the school day.

While at the food tasting, all of the food was placed nicely in each table. They were each sectioned, starting with the breakfast table and going around to the different choices for lunch and more. They had the “pizza of the day”, but they were made differently and on different types of bread. Some of the food, they would make for you, or put it together for you on the spot. Everything was great, looked great and was ideal.

But, as we all know nothing is perfect. This all brought many questions to our minds such as: Is the food going to look like this every day? Are we going to have to pay more for school lunch? How fresh are these foods in reality? Not all schools have kitchens, so how would all the food get prepared DAILY?

I thought that everything was really nice and nicely put. But, I was full of doubts and still am today. Nothing can change so drastically in such little time. Plus, everything they said, all of their responses were ideal. Yes that’s what we want to hear, but is that what will be performed?

Response to “Boston Public Schools May Privatize Food Management”

Recently, I have come across an article titled, Boston Public Schools May Privatize Food Management, by Radio Boston. It is around school food, concerning Umana Barnes Middle School in East Boston. Apparently, their students are being given “homemade vegetable soup”, according the school’s chef, Kirk Conrad. He is proud to mention that the students whom he serves, eat his food and enjoy it too, although he goes on to mention that they have to settle for processed or pre-packaged products. According to Chef Conrad, they try to use as much fresh food as possible. This, in my opinion, is a vital step toward healthy food consumption, that the Boston Public Schools need to take. I have been around countless Boston Public School students, most of whom complain about the quality, and to some degree the appearance of what is being served daily. From reading the article, I am happy to mention that numerous organizations including but not limited to Project Bread and the Boston Public Health Commission have been active in the efforts of initiating reform. They have set up pilot programs for healthy cooking/eating, another solid step toward the realization of healthier food in Boston Public Schools. As of now, they are looking for a new food service comapany, among the considered are Chartwells, Sodexo, and Aramark. Currently, I attend the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Chartwells provides our food. Honestly, their food is pretty good. They have a wide variety of food options including sandwiches from the deli bar and burgers/fish sandwiches from the grill. However, they do have fried and relatively unhealthy food in addition to relatively expensive fruit smoothies. Chef Conrad has mentioned his prior experience with Sodexo; I do not know much about it. Nonetheless, he seems like a repsectable individual whom I believe has the interests of the students at heart. He has expressed his concerns regarding food companies mentioning, “I don’t know if they would be as a aggressive in pursuing the cutting edge of fresh fruits and vegetables […] whole grains and the brown rice and what we’re trying to push forward.” I share similar sentiments as him. I am not a student of the Boston Public Schools, however, I would like for them to consume natural and healthy food, something which not all food companies may care about, especially if monetary profits are what they are after. Hopefully, those in charge can come to an agreement, in which the wellness of the students is the major focus.

By Jeffrey Pierre-Paul

Boston Collaborative of Food and Fitness (BCFF)

Welcome!

This is an introduction to BCFF. Below you will find the mission and what we are trying to achieve. This is one of many posts we will be having about our work. Hope it helps and increases everyone’s understanding of the Collaborative.

The Boston Collaborative of Food and Fitness has long-term approaches and strategies for achieving “the vision”.

“We will implement projects in neighborhood with the community partners, (including youth), build community coalitions, and replicate and link these projects across the city, connecting neighborhood work with citywide initiatives. We will leverage WKKF’s investment with in-kind and financial resources from public and private sources. Our strategies serve many goals; categorized in three areas: School Food Systems, Community Food Environments, and Active Living.

School Food Systems:

The idea is to strengthen local/regional food system by increasing markets through school and building a sustainable infrastructure.

By:

  • Hiring a Farm to School Coordinator who will help increase the number of participants per school.
  • A business plan that will empowered, educate and increase the interaction between farmers and youth.
  • Select food for the schools that people want to eat by having activities, and the best most favorable option can be selected.           
  • Creating a sustainable infrastructure to develop youth campaign including healthier menu items in schools, leadership which lead to understanding and efforts to arrive at better solutions deserved.

 

Creating Healthy Community Food Environments:

The main idea is to increase markets for local foods, have an increase in healthy food that is affordable, ensure equity of access to healthy food and again build a sustainable infrastructure.

By:

  • Having more local farmer’s markets and ensure that they accept EBT and Bounty Bucks.
  • Developing a marketing plan which educates the community about nutrition, economic development and youth skills training.
  • Set up a citywide Farmer’s Market Viability Group in Boston
  • Have partners in order to make the fresh foods affordable.

 

Creating Opportunities for Active Living in the Natural and Built Environment:

The idea is to combine citywide with community-led activities in East Boston and Mattapan.

By:

  • Making it easier for people to travel (walking, bicycling…)
  • More programs offerings per community centers, reflecting community’s fitness activities.
  • Fully support the conversion of unused areas to make them into areas that can be used for physical activities.
  • Working with Boston Bicycle Board, support new development on streets so they can be for walkers, drivers, bicyclists specially on the low-income communities.
  • ADVOCATE !!!

By: Juleissy Pimentel

I am a current member of BCFF, working with Youth Advisory Board. We advocate and try to create a change on the food that we see on the lunch menus in Boston Public Schools. We believe that everyone should have equal rights to fresh and local food. A good idea is just starting off making school food better. I’ve learned that I too have a voice in the choices made in school food and all students should know they too can create a change. BCFF works for the benefit of the community and I am very proud to be part of such movement. 

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