School Imposes New Dining Plan


Harriet Engelke and Abby Hahn

To accomodate COVID-19 protocols, the Friends Upper School lunch plan has shifted to a new take-out dining system this year. 


The cafeteria now offers pre-packaged to-go hot meals as well as freshly-made salads, sides, sandwich options, and selections of juice, water or milk. Additionally, there have been new dishes added to the menu, such as chicken tenders, Beyond burgers (a popular choice among vegetarians), and potato and Greek salads. 


Last year as a COVID precaution, students were restricted to eating with their cohorts in designated classrooms. Newly-introduced grab-and-go meals enable both students and staff to take food out of the cafeteria to designated safe eating spaces on campus. On sunny days, many students also enjoy eating their food in the courtyard, the terrace of the Upper School commons, or even Stuyvesant Park. 


This year’s system also is significantly more efficient for staff members who are working to both make the food and deliver it methodically. “Last year we delivered food to each classroom, so it’s a whole lot better and safer this year. Last year there was a lot of work because we had to make the lunch, pack the lunch, and deliver the lunch,” explains Jackie Collins, a member of the cafeteria staff. 


Aside from the safety and efficiency benefits of the to-go meals, the new lunch plan also creates both social and money-saving advantages. The cafeteria system enables students to sit outside with each other and allows students to socialize beyond their classes, and it simultaneously provides spaces where students can remain a safe distance apart while still being able to eat together. Additionally, if you don’t want to spend money on outside food options, the cafeteria meals provide a healthy alternative alongside the ability to sit outside of the cafeteria. “I have the option to not spend my money every single day on food outside of school, and a lot of the time the meals are just as good as other expensive places,” says Louis Engelke ‘23.


While the cafeteria has successfully established a safe and efficient lunch system, the dining staff are also facing some new challenges. “Supply chain issues are a major issue–I’m sure you’ve seen it on the news–ships being backed up in the harbor with supplies,” says Mike Costello, the Dining Services Manager. Because of the delayed deliveries, staff try to order supplies in advance; however, while it solves one dilemma, it creates another challenge of creating available storage in the kitchen.


The disposable take out boxes and beverages are convenient; however, they unfortunately produce more waste than before. As an attempt to reduce plastic waste, the cafeteria provides plant-based, biodegradable utensils, along with paper-based boxes. “We’re trying as hard as we can to keep the waste down,” explains Costello. To further encourage waste reduction, students are urged to use reusable bottles rather than the plastic-packaged beverages. 


All in all, the new dining system has proved to be popular: “The takeout system at Friends Seminary offers a perfect balance between social interactions and COVID safety protocols, enabling students to feel safe and also get fed,” Sophie Parr ‘22 observes.