City Fresh offers fresh perspective on school lunch

LS and MS students provided meals with new program


Anika Desai, Staff Writer

Bananas, apples, peaches, nectarines, or plums? A cold or a warm sandwich? Lower School (LS) and Middle School (MS) students can make these choices at school for the first time this year through a new provided by City Fresh.

Before the 2020-21 school year, LS and MS students brought their own lunches to school, unlike at the Upper School (US). Due to the reduced capacity of students and the safe grab-and-go lunch style last year, the US kitchen staff served all three campuses.

This year, the school wanted to continue serving lunch for the LS and MS campuses because it was well-received by families and students, Chief Operating and Financial Officer Tara Gohlmann P’23,’26,’28 said.

Recognizing that serving all three campuses out of the US kitchen would be a challenge, the school decided to outsource the food to the LS and MS, Dr. Gohlmann said. After interviews with six vendors, they chose City Fresh.

“City Fresh has a lot of [school] customers right now, so they know what kids will eat,” she said. “We want to provide a healthy, nutritious, satisfying lunch where students feel glad to be in lunch.”

The school employs different setups for the LS and MS with a shared goal to preserve classroom time, Dr. Gohlmann said. At the LS, the lunches are delivered to individual homerooms, and families order ahead of time. City Fresh employees organize and distribute the meals.

The hardest part of the new program is the logistics, LS Director Anthony Reppucci said.

“The most important thing is that kids have enough time to unwind during lunch,” he said. “The challenge will be thinking about how to create time for the new program.”

Mr. Reppucci said he admires City Fresh’s mission, which includes community development, diversity, and inclusion.

“I’m excited that we chose a company that stands for something,” he said. “I think we did a good job being intentional about who the people are that are joining our community.”

Viola Shephard ’28 said she thinks the fruit selection is better than last year.

“I like the fruit choices because it’s not just an apple or a banana,” Viola said. “They provide different fruit. I like the variety because you don’t really know what’s going to be on the menu that day. I get a nice surprise.”

Viola also likes the increased meal rotations, she said.

“This year, when you go to fill out the lunch form, you don’t really know what will be on the menu. With last year’s lunch program, the menu repeated every month, so if you didn’t like one of the options on the menu, you were out of luck for the year,” she said. Sarah Baker ’28 said the increased portions of food pleasantly surprised her.

“I am less hungry after school,” she said. “Not only is it more filling, but it is tastier, too.”

City Fresh delivers one large order of lunches to the MS foyer, where students grab their food based on allergies and personal preferences and bring it to the Big Room, the MS community gathering room, to eat. They can choose from a hot lunch, vegetarian hot lunch, and cold/sandwich option.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions last year, MS students could not eat in the Big Room, so teachers supervised their homerooms while they ate and monitered the grab-and-go lunch service. MS Assistant Director Tony Breen said City Fresh’s organized delivery service allows teachers to relax more during lunch.

“Last year, the lunch felt like a bit of an imposition on faculty members. This year, they will feel like they can enjoy the realms and extent of their position as a teacher and advisor again,” he said.

MS Director Mary Dolbear said while it was difficult to reconfigure the faculty kitchen to create space for hot food, she is excited to provide MS students with a wholesome lunch.

“Our students are on the go all day, and their days are long,” she said. “Proper nutrition and healthy eating is an important component to support our student experience.”

Quinn Conine ’27 said the warm lunch option provides more options when he gets his lunch.

“The meat which is usually in the lunch tastes better when warm,” he said.

The school’s partnership with City Fresh is a step toward their ultimate goal of creating dining centers similar to the US Commons on the LS and MS campuses, Dr. Gohlmann said.