Black-Owned food service City Fresh Foods CEO Shelton Lloyd was recently awarded a $17 million contract with Boston Public Schools (BPS).
Lloyd struck a deal with BPS in which City Fresh Foods would provide fresh breakfast, lunch, snacks, after-school meals and summer meals to almost 50,000 students in the district’s schools. Each meal will be made with mainly locally sourced ingredients via the company’s factory.
“[This is a] long time coming. Twenty-eight years ago, City Fresh began around the corner on Dudley Street — 1,200-square-foot kitchen with less than ten employees delivering a couple hundred meals a day,” Lloyd said at a press conference in May. “Look at City Fresh now. We produce and deliver thousands of meals every day to residents of the city of Boston, and we have a team of 160 locals.”
The $17 million contract is reportedly the largest non-construction contract that Boston has awarded to a Black-owned business, Mayor Michelle Wu said at the conference.
“I’m so proud to partner with City Fresh to bring young people nutritious food in our Boston public schools. And with this investment, we are leading by example, showing that it is possible to invest in local businesses that value workers, that strive and live racial equity and still receive higher quality food,” Wu said.
City Fresh’s contract arrived following a committee of BPS and city staff members’ decision to partner with the company due to its exceptional reputation within the Roxbury community and its effort to avoid as many processed foods as possible in their meals. Lloyd began his company nearly 30 years ago outside of Nubian Square to provide fresh and healthy meals to minorities and seniors in the area.
“This is the community feeding the community right here. Many of my cooks are going to be feeding their own. We make diverse food, so you have the flavors of the community,” he said.
Lloyd’s partnership is a triumph in a city that has upheld racism in and out of its public school system for decades. Racial tension in Boston rose after the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts demanded that Boston Public Schools integrate the city’s learning institutions via busing in 1974. The ruling caused outrage among its white residents, causing violent protests around the northeastern city during the 1970s and 1980s.
“We got these parents stoning us and calling us names, throwing sticks and rocks — grandmas, grandpas, mothers and fathers,” Cedric Turner, a Black survivor of the violent attacks during the time, recalled in an interview with WGBH in 2021. “They was breaking the windows. And we’re like, what the hell. And then we have to play a game?”
During the decades following the city’s hostile racial climate, thousands of Black Bostonians even ditched their hometowns for the south in what some researchers called “a reverse great migration.”
Many of these residents settled in African American epicenters like Atlanta and didn’t look back.
“My kind of high school goal was to move out of Boston,” a former resident, Kyle Wells, told WGBH in another story about Black people who fled from Boston and moved to Atlanta to escape racism. “After that, I never looked back. This is my out. I’m gone.”
Although times have changed, a poll conducted by WBUR revealed that 8 out of 10 Bostonians still consider racism a considerable problem in Boston.