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May 2009 – Bernie Novak

Feeding our Kids with Energy Efficiency

Bernie Novak, Greening Greenfield’s “Green Hero” for the month of May, is a man who has for a long time understood  the equation between energy savings and fiscal responsibility.

As Food Director for the Greenfield School  Department, delivering 1800 meals a day, he has saved the schools close to $70,000 and hopes to tally up a $90, 500 by  the July 1st end of this fiscal year.  Eighty percent of savings in the school budget came from the Food Dept. this year, “yet with  just under a million dollar operating budget there is very little wiggle room—only 3%—beyond costs”, said Novak. Forty percent of the budget comes from food sales in the school dining rooms at a per meal expense of $2.75,  but 67% of the students are on reduced rates or free meals. There is no capital money for equipment upgrades from the town either. So how does he do it? This is how our Hero has created a huge success story in the past year and a half.

Utilities are his largest expense. He says much of his savings this year has come from replacing outdated equipment with Energy Star equipment:  ovens, ranges, refrigerators, freezers and switching from electricity to gas to run them. “The two large freezers at the High School now use in one month the same energy the old ones used in two days!” said Bernie. These expenses didn’t come from his budget but from several grants:  the Dairy Council, Project Bread, Mass Dept of Secondary Education and Federal Dept. of Education. He is looking forward to getting stimulus money this  summer to continue  equipment efficiency upgrades.

In addition to running the food services for all schools in town, Bernie also oversees the food deliveries to the town’s Summer Feeding Program which covers Leyden Woods, Oak Courts, Greenfield Gardens, the Swimming Pool, Middle School,  Green River, North Parish, Federal St and Newton School programs as well as the YMCA camps. This program is federally funded and advertised and delivers 40,000 meals during the summer.
Bernie Novak has also been instrumental in obtaining all new Energy Star equipment for the new Home Ec Lab at the High School, taught by Paul Williams. The shiny, new Home Ec lab is now being used for regular classes to explore first-hand the chemical, cultural, mathematical examples in real life of processes the students are studying.  In the fall, Home Ec will once again return as full-fledged elective course giving countless students the life skills needed for responsible food production and possibly future careers in culinary arts.

Bernie Novak is our Green Hero for the month of May, a time of  renewal of earth’s productivity. We salute his farsighted vision for energy efficiency in the schools and his many ways of saving the town a lot of money. May his example inspire others.

Think Global, Act Local EarthThrives tells the story of what is Green, Sustainable and Local for the Pioneer Valley, MA!