A vision for the Gordon family table
Generating a comprehensive strategy for integrating sustainable agriculture, nutrition, justice and community-building into the daily life of the school, and convening students, families, faculty and staff at a Gordon family table
Where we are now
This year's program
This year, Gordon offers daily lunch service to first to eighth grade through More than a Meal, a catering and job training program affiliated with Amos House. This partnership with More than a Meal is, through mutual agreement, a one-year-only, stop-gap arrangement. Gordon is grateful that they stepped in to meet our short-term needs as we recovered from the pandemic and families made it clear that a lunch program needed to return.
Food in the curriculum
Food has become an increasingly important part of Gordon's schoolwide science, sustainability and community-building work. Every step in the food cycle—from cultivation and preparation to composting—has become a lesson, and the simple act of sharing a meal offers many moments of social and emotional growth. The school is ready for a long-term partner with expertise in school dining who can partner with Gordon to expand this work.
Gordon does not have a professional-quality commercial kitchen, which has meant that vendors have needed to prepare food offsite and transport it to school ready-to-serve. This is an expensive process that limits the variety and quality of daily offerings, increases food waste, and uses a great deal of fuel and electricity for heating, travel and reheating.
Size and scale
Gordon’s size and scale make an opt-in model financially unsustainable. Moving to a retail model, where students come to school with cash or cards and shop for their lunch every day, would provide even more challenges: not only logistically and nutritionally, but also in terms of Gordon’s mission, which strives to give students equal access to the same daily experience.
Where we want to go
A shared vision
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.
A continuing conversation
As the school emerged from the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, work on the lunch program resumed in earnest. Last spring, a survey to families received an unprecedented 70% response rate, and confirmed that over 97% of our families believe that it’s important for Gordon to have a lunch program. Over the past twelve months, families were invited to engage through a review of the strategic vision, a series of lunch-focused Zooms and meetings, and a retreat in early January. Gordon has reached an inflection point in this work, and it's time for even more families, faculty, staff and students to join the ongoing work.
Timeline: Lunch strategy development
On a parent survey, 97% of respondents say it is important to have a lunch program at Gordon
Top concerns: cost, nutrition, child-friendliness, allergies, sustainability
One-year partnership with More Than A Meal begins
Dr. Thomas López leads three conversations about the long-term vision for lunch
Food strategy highlighted as Dr. Thomas López reviews the strategic vision at an evening for parents
Three-day retreat with parents, faculty and administration hones the vision for a community-inclusive program
A comprehensive strategy
As Gordon has learned more about the role food could play throughout the curriculum, it has become clear that the school has an enormous opportunity. While the immediate need is to put food on Gordon students’ plates next fall, this work is about more than lunch. It’s about generating a comprehensive strategy for integrating sustainable agriculture, nutrition, justice and community-building into the daily life of the school, and convening students, families, faculty and staff at a Gordon family table.
A successful food strategy will require smart partnerships, from sourcing ingredients to processing food waste sustainably. After meeting with a dozen vendors, Gordon is excited to be partnering with SAGE Dining Services for menu planning, food preparation and daily service. SAGE is a family-run company with thirty years of experience working with independent schools. SAGE’s entire operation is impressive, but the decisive elements for Gordon have been their flexibility and their willingness to listen. These qualities will be essential as they collaborate with Gordon on a meaningful schoolwide food strategy that sets Gordon apart from other independent schools.
Beginning next fall, lunch at Gordon will be served to everyone at the school: students from Nursery to eighth grade as well as faculty and staff. A community-inclusive model aligns with Gordon’s mission in ways that opt-in and retail models cannot, giving everyone in the school equal access to a shared daily experience in the dining hall.
Starting from scratch
SAGE has a demonstrated commitment to cooking from scratch in small batches using fresh, local ingredients. Beginning this spring, SAGE will partner with Gordon to create customized daily menus with fresh, delicious, nutritionally complete options for everyone in the entire community. Working with a partner like SAGE will allow Gordon to accommodate those with food allergies, medical conditions and dietary restrictions more broadly and thoughtfully than ever before.
Looking forward to lunch
At lunch time each day, each student will be able to build an individualized meal from a choice of hot entrées, soups, and sides that will include vegetarian options. Students will also have access to a full build-it-yourself salad bar and sandwich station. Using SAGE’s feedback tools—online and in-person—the menu will continue to evolve to adapt to community needs and preferences.
Straightforward individualized pricing
Part of the Gordon experience
Lunch will no longer be an optional, additional fee. This program will have a significant impact on the student experience, and every family will share in the expense of the program.
Fair and transparent
In the survey conducted last spring, families' primary concern about a community-inclusive program was the cost: what the price would be for their own family, but also, significantly, whether or not the pricing structure would work for other families. To that end, the school will be building on the success of the FIT model to fund lunch.
Using the FIT model
For the past five years, Family Individualized Tuition has provided a simple, inclusive, transparent process for determining what each family pays for the Gordon experience, based on their income. Gordon will continue to begin with each family's FIT income as the basis for what they pay for lunch.
Integrated into FIT
Instead of breaking out a separate charge for the lunch program, the cost of the community-inclusive lunch program will be integrated into each family’s FIT price. Families will not need to submit new information for this process; the increase will be based on the family’s FIT income, using the information on file when the family last engaged with the FIT portal during their most recent three-year FIT evaluation process.
In general, the cost will be 1% of a family’s FIT income for each student in their family. With Early Childhood students, the cost will be 0.8% of a family’s FIT income. There will be a maximum cost of $1,600 per Lower School and Middle School student, regardless of FIT income; the maximum will be $1,280 for Early Childhood students. There is a minimum cost of $500 per student. Faculty and staff, who will play an essential role in the success of this program, will not be asked to pay for their own lunch.
Your family’s total FIT price
On Friday, January 13th, the Admissions Office will issue reenrollment contracts for next year. Those contracts will include each family’s new FIT price, revised to include the community-inclusive lunch program.
A new kitchen
The past year's food strategy work has also included major leaps forward for Gordon's facilities plan. A design for a new, commercial-grade kitchen is being finalized, with construction due to begin March 13th. Fundraising for the project is well under way, though new donors are welcome to join the effort by reaching out to Alexandra O'Connor. The full cost of the project will be covered by individual philanthropy and outreach to foundations, with no impact on families' annual tuition or fees.
Menus and curriculum development
As Gordon assessed partners for this work, SAGE stood out in the field as a vendor that is uniquely interested in collaborating with schools and creating menus that reflect the needs and values of each community. This spring, families, faculty, staff, and students will learn more about how to participate in this process and how SAGE's work will be integrated into a larger food strategy for Gordon.
SAGE on campus
Representatives from SAGE are ready to meet with community members in the coming weeks and months. For new partnerships, SAGE offers meetings with their team and tasting sessions so that the community can see and taste the quality and variety of the food that children will be eating each day. Gordon is currently working with SAGE to determine what sequence of presentations might be most relevant to the Gordon community, and to coordinate the timing with the kitchen construction happening this spring.
The conversation continues
Frequently asked questions sparked by the information above are at www.gordonschool.org/lunchfaqs.
Q&A sessions with parents and cargivers are scheduled throughout the winter and spring—learn more at www.gordonschool.org/qanda.