Family table coming soon
above: the artist's rendering from winter 2023, and the reality from November 16th. The big logo goes up on Monday.
Lunch is coming soon!
This process has moved quickly in some ways –fifteen months from concept to funding, construction and launch– and slowly in others (the wait from September until now has been hard).
As the completion of the kitchen draws near, it seemed prudent to review some of the vision for the program. Much of this has been unveiled over the past year, but here it is in one spot.
In addition to reviewing the information below with their children, parents are urged to download the app. Directions and links are at www.gordonschool.org/app.
The Gordon family table
Lunch as an opportunity to have a positive impact on the world
Gordon’s strategic vision calls on the school to “design a lunch program that fosters a resilient and sustainable local ecosystem by supporting local farmers and serving students fresh, healthy, delicious food.” This vision was developed by families, faculty, administrators, alumni and friends of the school as A More Just and Sustainable World in 2018.
Lunch as a convenience for families
Gordon's strategic vision also asks the school to "design a flexible and integrated operating model that serves the needs of twenty-first century families, both during and beyond the traditional school day." A daily lunch program is a key part of meeting families’ needs; a spring 2022 survey to families confirmed that over 97% of our families believe that it’s important for Gordon to have a lunch program.
Lunch as a way to strengthen community
Sharing a daily meal is a simple, powerful way to build community, and Gordon's multicultural curriculum is well-positioned to use food to help students see their individual identities reflected in the life of the school.
The work thus far
A food committee, composed of faculty, administrators and parents, has been meeting since January to define a vision for the program that meets the goals of nutrition, sustainable sourcing, and convenience for families.
A new professional kitchen has been designed and installed in the Britt Nelson Dining Hall, funded 100% by the generosity of several community members.
Gordon's faculty have been finding dozens of new ways to incorporate food production and preparation into lessons, building on an already-rich curriculum supported by the ever-expanding community gardens and the new position of Green Dean.
SAGE Dining has been represented on campus by Chef Rich Silvia since September. Chef Silvia has already integrated himself into the life of the school, meeting with students and speaking at Middle School meeting while also providing daily snacks and managing the Commons coffee.
Some guiding principles
The food committee has developed a set of guiding principles that are driving the menu choices. Faculty as well as parents and caregivers should get to know these principles; they will be helpful in talking with students about the choices they will have each day. The full list of principles is here. Some highlights include:
Meals made in-house from scratch with wholesome, fresh ingredients
No GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, or MSG
A variety of nutrient dense foods for both sustenance and athletic performance; food coded by nutritional density
No tree nuts, no peanuts, and the twelve most common allergens labeled on food
SAGE team trained in allergen-safe food service, signs of anaphylaxis, and EpiPen use
Buy from within 150 mile radius whenever possible, on average 40% of suppliers local to Rhode Island
Cage-free, certified humane eggs, seafood sourced with guidelines from the Marine Stewardship Council and Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
Batch cooking to reduce food waste
All food waste from the kitchen and dining room will be diverted to compost through a collaboration with Bootstrap Composting
No “good” or “bad” foods; we honor and celebrate all of the reasons people eat
Variety in menu week to week and a range of items: every child should be able to find something they can eat!
Staple foods include dishes outside typical Western menus
Vegetarian entree options everyday
Students and adults with food allergies can safely enjoy a meal
Multiple systems of feedback
The day-to-day of the Gordon Family Table
Gordon will serve every student a fresh, nutritious lunch, with a range of choices that goes far beyond anything offered in the past: two hot entrées a day, sides, and a salad, soup and sandwich bar. Vegetarian entrées will be available daily. For those children who need predictable staples, the salad bar and the sandwich bar will always include several items that will provide consistency day-in and day-out.
Can students bring food from home?
Gordon is not prohibiting students from bringing lunch from home, but families should consider this as a last resort, one they arrive at only after conversation with the school.
Gordon has been working hard to create a program that has options for all students, every day, and this work will continue after the program launches.
If a child is not finding something that works for them, every day, please reach out to Veronica Jutras, so we can learn more about your child's needs.
Note: SAGE will provide a morning snack for all students, and Gordon's after school child care and enrichment programs will also provide a snack. If your child participates in after school theater or athletics and would enjoy a snack after school, they will need to bring a snack from home.
Choices every day
There will be many choices offered every day in the dining hall. This is exciting, and will also require some structure as the program launches.
Early Childhood students will not eat in the dining hall. They will enjoy lunch in their classrooms, and eat alongside their teachers. The menu will have less choices than the one for older students, but vegetarians will still be accommodated, and there will be opportunities to try new foods and learn how to make healthy choices.
Older students will have plenty of time to work their way through the lines. Seconds will be available, so students can take small first servings, reducing waste if they discover they don't like an option.
Parents can help with this process by reviewing the menu with students and helping them remember what their favorite choices are week to week. The menu is on the Touch of Sage app.
Cow milk and oat milk; water and fruit-infused water offered every day; no juice
A salad bar with fifteen or so items, including lettuce, tomatoes, and other familiar salad ingredients. Bar will also have a featured salad for the week.
A sandwich bar with a premade sandwich-of-the-day as well as bread and build-your-own staples like roasted turkey, chicken salad, egg salad, soy nut butter and jelly.
Non-processed cheese, whole wheat pasta, and wheat, oat, and whole grain breads will be offered instead of American cheese, white flour pasta and white bread
A true vegetarian entree option every day, not just a meatless take on the hot entree.
The menu will always include several items that will provide consistency day-in and day-out.
Chopsticks will be available in addition to forks and spoons.
Snacks will avoid pre-packaged, sugary, processed items and favor fruits, veggies, and protein-based whole foods.
Menus will demonstrate respect for cultural traditions and major cultural and religious holidays.
At least one day a week will be meatless, with no meat at any station.
Dessert once a week.
Dining hall culture
Teachers and students are working together on age-appropriate expectations for lunch, grounded in principles that include:
using meals as a way to make connections with each other
leave the dining space in the condition they found it
be responsible for their own spills and crumbs
dispose of waste appropriately
work to avoid food waste by managing portions.
create an environment where everyone enjoys the meal
manages voices so everyone has a chance to engage with their dining partners
Students will be expected to greet staff respectfully and learn names. As the kitchen opens, the team is:
Chef Rich Silvia, Dining Manager
Mr. Scott Vari ("VA ree"), Sous Chef
Ms. Lisa Fontes ("Fonts"), Prep Cook and Server
Mr. Frankie Derisier ("Der REE zee er"), Steward
Ms. Natasha Santos ("SAN toes"), Steward
Students will be expected to stay in the dining hall throughout lunch, staying at one table and leaving only to use the bathroom.
Staff and faculty are invited to join lunch any time, and sit with students if they wish. Lunch will be available from 11:25 to 1:15.
What's the parent and caregiver’s role in this?
As we said in August, Gordon needs three things from parents and caregivers this fall:
1. Encourage your child as they try something new.
2. Communicate if there are questions or concerns. The SAGE Dining app allows families to give feedback on the daily menus. For non-menu issues, Veronica Jutras is available at email@example.com to help direct your feedback and get answers.
3. Show grace in understanding that the process of feeding everyone in the school, every day, is a complex undertaking that will evolve as the year goes on.
Is that all?
Yes, it's really that simple. A key goal for this work was to simplify daily decisionmaking and school day preparations for families, and we're not asking you to do more than encourage your child, communicate questions and concerns, and show grace as the process evolves.
Download the app at www.gordonschool.org/app
Preview the menu at www.gordonschool.org/menu