Hungry when the school day ends? Starving after sports practice? Not anymore, thanks to the opening just over a month ago of the Nicholas Athletic Center (NAC) Cafe, a pilot program serving pepperoni-and-cheese pizza by the slice, pre-ordered hot meal options, expanded vending machine offerings, and free snacks for students from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m. on weekdays.
Having opened on January 7, the NAC Cafe resides in the servery on the main level of the Nicholas Athletic Center and will remain until February 22 when the program will be reevaluated, according to the NAC Cafe website (bbnnaccafe.com). In 2005, parent volunteers ran a similar “winter cafe” for students, but the initiative stopped shortly thereafter, with the space only used for team dinners, Athletic Director Chuck Richard said.
Director of Dining Services Keith Jones and his team staff the Cafe, which offers free fruits and granola bars for students during hours of operation. Students can also visit the NAC Cafe’s website by 1:30 p.m. to use a credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Pay to order salads, sandwiches, and more supplied by Ma Magoo’s restaurant in Cambridge. All orders from Ma Magoo’s arrive at school by 3:15, and Chef Jones’ team stores the food in a warmer or refrigerator as needed until students pick up their meals, according to the website. Ma Magoo’s also delivers eight to 10 pizzas to the school a day, available for purchase by the slice without a pre-order.
In an email to the school community on December 17, Head of School Jen Price announced her plans to start the NAC Cafe with financial support from the Parents’ Association (PA). She said that on her listening tour, concerns about accessible food options after school came up multiple times from parents, teachers, and students, sparking the idea for a NAC Cafe. At the time this paper went to press, with a full-board vote imminent, the PA could not yet disclose the amount they would pledge to support the program.
PA President Micki Rowaan P’20’22 said the PA met with Dr. Price, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tara Gohlmann, and Chief Advancement Officer Julie Gray in December to discuss the need for the NAC Cafe and figure out a way to bring the plan to fruition.
“Jen Price really heard everybody and knew she could achieve this but needed some funds quickly since there was no allocation in the budget—and that’s where the PA came in,” Ms. Rowaan said. “The PA was able to collaborate with the school to help fund the NAC Cafe project, and the administration was able to get the ball rolling so that by the time we got back from winter break, the Cafe was up and running.”
The PA’s funds have come from three school gear sales led by Lilly Yun P’18’19, whom Ms. Rowaan credited with the idea to have the proceeds go toward the NAC Cafe.
“The merchandise sales created a lot of school spirit and filled a need that both students and parents really wanted,” Ms. Yun said. “It made sense to have the proceeds from the sale also benefit the entire BB&N community—the NAC Cafe is for kids needing a snack, but also parents who are waiting to pick up their kids.”
Ms. Yun added that former PA President Janice Gould P’16’21 originally helped get the merchandise sales off the ground, in addition to Emilie Kendall P’15’18, who co-organized the effort with Ms. Yun. Helped by many parent volunteers, Vicky Lang P’16’18’20’22’24 and Asha Patel P’21 ran the PA’s gear sale for this year.
Dr. Gohlmann, who is in charge of the pilot program, said she believes putting resources toward the NAC Cafe is practical for the school.
“The lack of food was such a glaring issue that it became really easy for us to prioritize,” she said.
In anticipation of evaluating the NAC Cafe program’s success, Dr. Gohlmann encouraged people to email her with their feedback.
“We definitely want to hear from our community so that we can reassess the program and see how we can make enhancements and changes moving forward,” she said.
So far, several students have expressed enthusiasm for the NAC Cafe.
“I love the NAC Cafe because I can get my favorite sandwiches from Ma Magoo’s so much more easily,” Harry Golen ’19 said. “I have had nothing but positive experiences ordering from them, and I hope the Cafe stays around.”
“The accessibility is amazing,” Girls’ Varsity Basketball player Nora Ryan ’21 said. “It’s very convenient and helpful when there’s a late game.”
Patricia Halliday ’21 had some ideas for how to improve the NAC Cafe.
“Adding a few more food options would be nice, and you should be able to order drinks, too,” she said. “I also think you should be able to order with cash. Overall I’d give the NAC Cafe a nine out of 10.”