What words or images go through your head when you think about school lunches? How about “healthy” and “sustainable?”
At Allendale Columbia, it may start with providing healthy, sustainable, fresh, tasty, and allergy-safe sustenance, Food Service Director, Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch related at Wednesday’s Parents of Allendale Columbia Kids (PACK) Coffee Connection. But healthy and sustainable goes beyond the food. Laura and her team also seek to contribute to students’ overall well-being and develop practices that will sustain students into their adult lives.
The whole school eats lunch family-style. At each level (Lower, Middle, and Upper School), students sit at assigned tables with students from their Division, as well as an adult faculty or staff member. Table assignments change monthly to help students get to know each other and build connections, one of the school’s core values.
Mrs. Reynolds-Gorsuch explained how students take turns with various responsibilities, getting the entree and sides, clearing the table, separating garbage, compostables, and recyclables, and even wiping down the table and getting it ready for the next lunch. (Sorry, kids, now your parents know you are capable of doing these things at home!)
Food is sourced locally as much as possible. AC has been one of Headwater Food Hub’s earliest institutional customers. In 2018, Headwater delivered offerings from 62 local area farms, including fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses, to AC. Some foods come direct from other local farms.
Headwater’s vegetables are often featured for Fearless Friday, when Super Chef Yessy Roman prepares a dish for Mrs. Reynolds-Gorsuch, who typically doesn’t like vegetables, and guest student taste testers to try. On this day, she had parent testers try Celeriac Slaw. They liked it!
AC also has a relationship with Flour City Bread. Mrs. Reynolds-Gorsuch gives food tips every day to Lower School students and often preaches about eating only things you can pronounce, and staying away from the stuff that you can’t pronounce or has a lot of ingredients. She sometimes has a child read the ingredients from a Flour City offering, and then has an older student read the list from another mainstream brand as an example. Here’s one example: which would you prefer?
- Flour City Bread: White Sandwich Bread
Ingredients: Organic wheat flour, water, organic sunflower oil, organic cane sugar, sea salt, yeast
- Stroehmann King: White Enriched Bread
Ingredients: Enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, reduced iron, niacin, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid], water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, salt, soybean and/or canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate (preservative), datem, calcium sulfate, soy lecithin, citric acid, grain vinegar, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, azodicarbonamide, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides.
Partnerships extend to composting food waste and napkins. Fifth-grade students help younger ones sort food into the proper containers, and then they carry the compost buckets out to a larger bin at the loading dock. That gets picked up on a regular basis from Natural Upcycling, which uses an anaerobic digester to produce renewable energy.
In addition to a main entree and side, Mrs. Reynolds-Gorsuch explained how AC always provides a fresh-made soup of the day and an extensive salad, sandwich, and yogurt bar. The AC Kitchen gladly accommodates special food requests, with vegetarian and vegan offerings every day, and alternatives for those who need them either because of food allergies or other medical conditions, or even just known preferences. As a nut-aware school, all ingredients are nut-free, giving confidence to students (and parents) that they can try the full variety of offerings.
While the menu rotates generally every three weeks, new meals are introduced as ingredients are available, such as last week’s Chicken Curry and this week’s Balsamic Chicken with Baby Tomatoes and Couscous.
Mrs. Reynolds-Gorsuch remained to answer questions and invited parents to stop by for lunch!
Stay Connected with the AC Kitchen!
Our kitchen staff sometimes posts updates on Twitter @ACLunchLadies. Follow them here!
Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, PACK, Pre-Primary School, Upper School