The children at Square One in Springfield are breaking healthier bread these days. Fresh-baked and whole wheat, in fact. The bakers? Members of the culinary arts program at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow.
Last October, Kimberley A. Lee, vice president for advancement at Square One, was ruminating about how to get fresh, healthier bread for the many sandwiches consumed at the agency’s child care centers. Their menus were undergoing a drastic change, the result of continuing consultation with nutritionists from the University of Massachusetts and Baystate Health advising healthier options.
Their recommendations included replacing white bread that children loved, but was not the best for them. Lee and Sara M. Teece, director of food services at Square One, also wanted something more nutritious in keeping with their overarching goal of developing better eating habits.
Enter Carl Schreiber, deputy superintendent of food services at the Correctional Center. He had the personnel, the equipment and the desire to provide hundreds of loaves of fresh, whole wheat bread to children who eat daily at the agency’s centers. So, once a week, a delivery is made to Square One’s King Street Family Center which then distributes the bread to all of the child care agency’s venues.
Teece said the quality of the bread would match any high-end, commercially available product. Best of all, no preservatives have been added. "And it’s available at a lower cost," she added. But they had to find a way to make it acceptable to young children who “like the familiar.” She and Lee came up with an ingenious solution. Introduce sandwiches that were made with one slice of white bread, one slice of wheat. Gradually, the white slice was eliminated. Who would know?
The women expect the relationship with Schreiber to grow with additional products produced at the Correctional Center. That suits Schreiber’s goals, too. In the kitchen at the jail, inmates are hovering over mounds of dough resting in tins they will soon to slide in massive ovens. The aroma is uplifting as if the preparers know they are doing a good thing, providing nourishment, while learning a marketable skill. They know their work yields not only loaves for children at Square One, but nourishment for the entire jail population of 900 men and staff. In the process, they are learning how to handle food safely, how to use measurements, how to read and to follow recipes.
"Overall, in keeping with the philosophy of the Correctional Center, inmates are adding to marketable skills allowing successful re-entry into society," Schreiber said. “We’ve had a lot of success with that philosophy.” Plans are in the making to expand the program to include pizza shells. Teece said she would like to start a monthly pizza party at Square One where children would eat the pizzas they helped create by adding favorite toppings, and, of course, lots of cheese.
Schreiber’s program is also in a growth period. On tap, classes in cake decorating, hot dog buns, and . . . ciabatta. Well, well.