Students at Notre Dame High School have helped push for a change to healthier food options at the school.
Officially beginning Jan. 7, 2014, the Belmont school signed a multi-year contract with Belmont-based Fare Restaurant Group to provide a food program that offers locally sourced, quickly made, balanced, nutritious, made-from-scratch food to students and staff for breakfast and lunch. Michelin-rated chef, from Cin-Cin in Los Gatos, and Bay Area native Chris Schloss will craft the menus.
“Our students were the drivers of this change,” said school head Maryann Osmond in a statement. “They are part of the millennial generation that is very discerning about food quality and the products they buy. They understand the value of nutrition and the role it plays in their ability to be strong, competitive and healthy and want whole fresh, nutritious food choices during their school day, but they also care a lot about taste and flavor.”
The menu being developed for Notre Dame includes freshly made soups, salads with beets, grain and fruit with house made dressings, handmade warm vegetable to beef to chicken sandwiches, fresh fruit smoothies and sensibly sized hot entrees, according to school officials. The weekly menu will change with the seasons and be determined by what is locally available. Students can preorder food a whole month at a time through PayPal or pay for meals in cash.
“Not a slice of frozen, reheated pizza, fountain drinks or off the shelf hot dogs are on the menu,” said Carolina Whitty, Notre Dame’s chief financial officer, in a statement. “We are thrilled about that, and expect our students and parents will be too.”
Additionally, the dishes and utensils provided by Fare are fully compostable or recyclable.
This all came about because of a survey students in the all girls Catholic school took about the current food service, said Michelle Conci, director of development at Notre Dame. Some girls, including Katherine Yancey and Sara Zokaei, at the school went to Whitty and asked for changes in food. The girls then took a survey on food at the school. The survey asked what type of food they’d want to see served, the quality of the food they’ve want to eat, what time of day they were interested in buying food and if they’d be willing to pay more for healthier or higher quality food. Students overwhelmingly stated in the survey that they would pay more for better food.
Yancey, a junior, said there have been complaints about the food for some time, but the final straw was when the campus cafe started charging for forks and knives. This led to contacting the administration and creating the online survey.
“It didn’t make sense to pay tuition and be denied a spoon,” she said. “So we went to the school and let them know students were planning on not eating from the campus cafe if things didn’t change. The administration told us that we didn’t need to petition anything because they wanted us to make the school a better place and they were with us on the forks and knives fiasco. ... The survey got sent out by the administration, and here we are, excited for next semester’s Fare food service.”
Fellow junior Zokaei said that for as long as she’s been at Notre Dame, there have been complaints about the food service but, to her surprise, school staff had no idea students were having problems with the food service.
“From hair in the pasta and handling food without gloves to rude remarks by the servers and fluctuating prices based on the flow of traffic, buying food from the campus cafe has never been a first option,” she said. “Personally, whenever I forget my lunch, I debate over whether I should buy food or just skip lunch. If you know a Notre Dame girl, you know that we love food and, as students, we pay a tuition to go to Notre Dame, and we pay for the food service. I believe that it’s only right to do what it takes to make students at Notre Dame happy, for factors like lunch also play a role in deciding which high school to go to.”
Meanwhile, Fare Co-founder Steve Spitts said this is the first school his company has worked with and he is excited for the opportunity.
“This is our only school food service relationship,” he said. “They offered us the opportunity and we knew we could fulfill a breakfast and lunch program at good value. We’re very happy about the relationship we now have with the high school; it’s great for us and the Notre Dame school community.”
The school selected Fare to become its new vendor over two other services, including a national company.
“Fare was chosen because we believe their focus on food being locally sourced is in alignment with what our girls want,” Conci said.
Fare has also indicated it would like to make internships available to interested students during the summer and will be looking for student volunteers to tend its kitchen garden and in the greenhouse at Notre Dame.
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