SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – At the John J. Duggan Middle School Academy in Springfield, sixth to eighth graders set the tone for the Black History Month program.

Their lunch was built around traditional dishes that have become part of the culture. The students themselves had much to contribute to the success of the program.

“In my family, we always cook a lot, especially on big events and every Sunday, so it’s a big part of my family to know how to cook and know how to cook our culture,” said Phoenix Yates, an 8th grader.

When Associate Principal April Robinson came up with this Black History Month format, she felt good about giving the students the opportunity to share with others how Black culture plays itself out in each African American household.

“Food has been part of our culture from the beginning of time, bringing our families together. We love to get around that, talk about memories and food brings us together,” said Robinson.

Food and culture, certainly unifying elements for people of all backgrounds. Principal Michael Calvanese mentions the importance to Italian families here in the Pioneer Valley. As he savored the success of this Black History Month program to bring people of all nationalities and races together.

“It’s nice to have that culture of family togetherness and Black history, I think that’s very common to break bread together as we’re doing today with our students,” said Calvanese.

Combining what traditional food and stories of the African American experience, that’s what Robinson says has come to mean for so many African American families as a way of feeding the soul.