One strand of our Strategic Plan is to commit to and sustain a culture of balance and well-being. As a School, we are committed to developing children who are intellectually engaged, socially connected, and healthy in mind, body and spirit. Towards that end, we created a “Food Task Force” to address the question of how to promote healthy living and healthy choices. The task force spent the better part of last year examining the strengths and challenges of our current food program, and based on that work, our group has created a mission statement that encompasses the ideals our school aspires to in regard to our food program.
Healthy Food Mission Statement:
The Head-Royce School food program strives to offer food choices that promote student health, wellness and academic achievement, support local economies, and encourage students to understand the relationship between food, culture, health and our environment.
The school seeks to:
· Promote health through menu offerings that feature a wide variety of delicious and nutritious food
· Develop in-class activities to deepen students’ knowledge, about food, culture, health and the environment
· Create dining spaces where students feel welcomed, safe, and valued and where social interaction is encouraged
· Promote equity and inclusion by ensuring equitable access to foods sold in the cafe.
· Obtain fresh, seasonal, sustainably-grown produce and products from local and regional sources whenever possible
· Reduce the amount of both food and packaging waste that the school generates while helping students to understand the need for conscious consumption (adopted by the Food Task Force, 2017)
(Adapted from Rethinking School Lunch: A planning framework from the Center for Ecoliteracy)
Making Healthy Shifts
We have worked with our food program vendor, Epicurean Group, to make some healthy changes that align with our newly-created food mission.
In the Lower School, Epicurean Group has introduced more seasonal and local vegetables: our salads have had persimmons and squash during the fall months. We have also decreased the dessert offerings to limit the amount of sugar that students are consuming at school. A huge hit has been the “bowl” menu, which introduces students to more international options that include pineapple chicken, bok choy, and brown rice. In previous years, Mondays have been “meatless;” now, however, the bowl option has replaced many of the pasta dishes and the kids are delighted! We have noted more than 32% participation on those days. Reducing waste is still an area of growth for the Lower School, and we are working on creating smaller portion sizes and empowering students to politely say “no, thank you” when deciding on which side dishes they’d like.
In the Middle School, the “bowl” menu is also a huge hit. We’ve also added a second hot meal grab-and-go option that has included a Philly cheese steak, a fried rice bowl with egg rolls, and steak tacos. Epicurean Group has been working to visually highlight and promote seasonal veggies and fruits in the Middle School. We’re considering the idea of creating a satellite station for food distribution to help with overcrowded lines; the student government representatives are currently generating ideas about this and helping the School move forward with this issue.
As with the other divisions, the “bowl” menu is also quite successful in the Upper School. With more than 30% participation just on the “bowl menu option.” We have expanded the options for breakfast to include a breakfast burrito, waffles, and french toast. We’ve also entirely substituted all of our pork bacon with turkey bacon! We also decided to eliminate chocolate croissants, though they are still available occasionally as a treat. The drink choices were completely overhauled and replaced with items that contained less sugar and a higher nutritional value such as Bai-water, Hint water, and cold-pressed Naked Juice. We’ve also started offering culinary education offerings through our new H-Block program. Once a week, we offer classes such as pickle fermentation, tortilla-making, pasta-rolling, and herbal remedy-making. Upper School professional community members Paul Scott, Keri Keifer and Laura Galligan have been leading the charge in this effort! Gene Vann and the Green Council recently conducted a food waste audit in the Upper School and found out which items were most often discarded at the end of a meal: vegetables and carbs, it turns out!
As the Food Task Force continues to work towards aligning our food program with the food mission, we’ll be sending out a student survey to gather information about what students think is working well with the food program and what changes they might like to see. Additionally, we will assess our progress through our bi-annual parent satisfaction survey to be administered next spring. In the meantime, we’ll continue testing out new food items.
Epicurean Group is continuing to work closely with the School to make changes and to support the food mission. As we make these shifts, we sometimes meet success and sometimes meet failure. Yet, we’re energized to continue our efforts and to keep producing healthy food that our students and school community will enjoy!