Ask almost any Gilmour Academy student what they remember about their shadow day. They’ll probably answer: the lunch. Gilmour is widely known for offering high quality food and having a welcoming Commons.
Over the years, Gilmour has made many changes to improve their options for students and faculty. The previous way of serving the food led to large amounts of waste. Students would grab a lunch tray and go through the line like a traditional school lunch line. Whenever students wanted more food, they would bring their trays back up, since lunches were served buffet style at the time. This allowed students to get more food than needed.
While some students may discuss unofficial records of who ate how many servings in one lunch period, much uneaten food would be be discarded when attempts were made to match or break said records. Now that Gilmour has switched out the lunch trays in favor of singular plates, many students aren’t getting as much food, and the waste has decreased.
According to Mr. David Pfundstein, Dean of Student Life and Leadership, the decision was made that if students didn’t waste as much food, they would continue to offer more options, a fair exchange. Two years ago, Gilmour transformed its lunch offerings. Instead of having a single hot lunch option, three sections were made: Signature, Pizza, and Fusion. In addition to these three hot lunch offerings, the bars for salad, soups, fruit, deli foods, and desserts would be expanded. Bon appetit! Right?
This major upgrade is a dream come true in many ways. Students have so many choices at lunch time. Also, healthier dishes mean healthier students. By offering healthier lunches, the added nutrients and protein to the menu would leave more students with more energy throughout the school day to help them focus on their studies better. Students should be thankful for the major expansion to the lunch menu.
“But to every positive, isn’t there a negative?” asks Connor Gerspacher (`19). Gilmour does have a college worthy commons and lunch menu, but some favorite dishes disappeared. Initially some items like tortellini, perogies, hush puppies, mac n cheese, chicken tenders, and vanilla frozen yogurt were all taken off the menu. Ugh.
One might think that it is no big deal to take these dishes off the menu considering the numerous amount of healthier options available. From some students’ perspective, it might actually be a bigger deal than expected. Both Gerspacher and Aegeas Wiertel (`18) have attended Gilmour since Montessori. For these two, some dishes hold sentimental value. Students can become fond of all the memories that they connect to the dishes.
Wiertel says, “Everything that happens in the lunchroom is a vital part of any kid’s school experience in the Lower School and beyond. I can’t believe they took away my childhood favorite dishes.” In agreement, Gerspacher adds, “I believe that Gilmour should bring back the tortellini just for old time’s sake and because these dishes are viewed as tradition at Gilmour.”
Personally, I couldn’t agree more. These dishes are certainly traditional dishes and seem to be very enjoyable and important to students overall. I remember when I shadowed Gilmour four years ago, the first thing the students told me when I got on campus was ‘Today is tortellini day! You’re so lucky you get to shadow on the day we have our most favored dish.’ Ever since I can remember, the tortellini was such a big deal on campus. Bella Mazzurco (`21) says, “I can’t believe tortellini was taken off the menu. That was one of the dishes I was so excited to try, because I’ve heard so much about it before I started attending this school in August. Now I won’t be able to try the ‘famous dish.’”
A multitude of students and student athletes are saddened by the removal of these dishes. Izzy Greene (`18) jokingly asks, “How else are we supposed to carb up without the tortellini or the perogies?” However, Greene thinks that is relatively a fair question when Gilmour is offering an abundance of healthy foods. Greene always makes sure to get a protein packed salad with each of her meals.
Some faculty members offer a different view in regards to the lost favorites. Ms. Samantha Johnson (`09), alum and current 9th and 10th grade counselor, is actually glad that they took away some of those dishes. Even though they were delicious and some of her personal favorites when she was a student, she believes that “because the students loved them so much, they were almost unable to control themselves. Students would eat way too much. That is not good for their health.” I agree with Miss Johnson that students tend to overeat sometimes. I know that I am guilty of this myself, but I also understand what Nicolle Figueroa (`20) points out.
Figueroa says these favorite dishes are too delicious to lose, and they were highlights of her days. She emphasizes that we are all teenagers growing up and working hard; our metabolisms are at their peak right now. “We want to be able to eat what we enjoy and not have to worry about our health right now. Gilmour has so many great options. I am thankful for that. But sometimes I miss the old ‘traditional’ Gilmour dishes,” says Figueroa.
Some students love the changes made to the menu and don’t mind that some dishes are no longer being served. Gabriella Mulchen (`19) loves the extension to the salad bar. She says, “It gives me so many more options since I’m vegetarian and am very focused and strict with my diet.” Mulchen couldn’t be happier with what Gilmour’s lunches have to offer. She thinks that it is worth losing the “traditional Gilmour dishes” since she actually didn’t eat those dishes when they were being offered.
As some students are happy with the expansion in the Commons and don’t mind not having the tortellini, perogies and hush puppies, mac n cheese, chicken tenders, and the popular vanilla frozen yogurt on Fridays, others are happy with the expansion but miss these dishes so much. I am very thankful for the expansion, but sometimes I miss the traditional dishes too much. In my quest for understanding, I found a way to bring it all back and stay healthy too.
Lo and behold, the Suggestion Box has always been the way. When leaving the Commons area, next to the cereal, there is a small box on the wall that invites student opinion. So, when a group of my friends and I filled out a few cards saying what we wanted back along with sentences as to why, I honestly didn’t think that our voices would be heard and the Suggestion Box was just for show. But, it turns out the suggestion box is actually a very powerful tool for student voices to be heard.
Our suggestions became realities. First, the vanilla frozen yogurt was brought back. Considering the frozen yogurt is my kryptonite, I am always one of the first people in line to get some on Fridays. The line is long, like it used to be, but I’ve never seen it get as long as it does now. Students are overflowing the dessert and deli section. Another dish that was brought back was the perogies. And fish tenders are offered instead of hush puppies. Favorite dishes are on their way!
To all the students and faculty, if there is something that you like or dislike at lunch, be sure to fill out a suggestion paper and put it in the Suggestion Box. Your voice will be heard. Gilmour takes what you have to say to heart. How can Gilmour know what you’re thinking if you don’t say anything?
After talking with Mr. Mel Weltle, the AVI General Manager of Food Services Operations, these dishes were taken off the menu this year because there were simply no comments made by students about them in the Suggestion Box either good or bad. Mr. Weltle strongly suggests students fill out suggestion cards to inform him of what meals are liked or disliked.
I believe a common misconception about the Suggestion Box is that it is only for complaints. Not true. The Suggestion Box is also meant to inform Mr. Weltle about which foods or dishes students want. The box is emptied every day, and the cards are checked about twice a week, which probably is one reason explaining why it always seems to look empty most of the time. Seeing the amount of cards in the suggestion box should not stop students from voicing their opinions.
Mr. Weltle says his goal is to give the students the foods they like and if there are foods the students don’t like, then replace those with foods the students will enjoy. When he noticed that there were only cookies for dessert, he hired a pastry chef. Think about that. Students have their own personal full time pastry chef who makes everything fresh the block before each lunch.
At lunch watching both middle schoolers and high schoolers alike cramming themselves in the dessert section in hopes to snag some before the first portion is all gone has to testify that the students are very appreciative of the assortment of desserts Gilmour lunches offer.
Mr. Weltle says his main goal is to not only provide students and faculty with food that they love but also healthy options. To provide the highest quality foods, he had to hire new staff just to keep up with all the preparing and cooking since everything is so fresh. The lunch staff at Gilmour starts preparing food for the next day as soon as lunch is over. Sometimes, staff members work late hours. This shows true dedication and care for serving quality food. Usually the food comes in fresh the night before or the morning of the day it will be served. The meats, for example, are cooked slowly on the lowest possible setting the night before.
Mr. Weltle and the kitchen/cooking staff care so much about what the students and faculty consume, but going to great lengths every day to make what they do possible. To be able to continually do this though, they need the suggestion cards from students Having the Suggestion Box overflowing with comments on how much students love or hate the food is so much better than having an empty Suggestion Box. Remember, the Suggestion Box is called the “Suggestion Box” and not the complaint box for a reason.
Gilmour’s Mission Statement is “To develop the competence to see and the courage to act in creating a more human and just human society.” Students are encouraged to have the courage to write a suggestion card and put it in the Suggestion Box. Even this small step can brighten someone’s day and put a spring in their step.