What Are New Plant-based Options in the Dining Hall?

By Asher Leavy ’22
Recent advancements in food technology have allowed companies and restaurants to produce and serve meat without actually raising animals. Food scientists have started growing steak in laboratories, making meat and milk with plants instead of cows. This includes insects in menus, farming without the need for soil or sunlight, and preserving foods through fermentation. Although it would be nice to have all of these things implemented into Shipley’s cafeteria, the reality is that COVID-19 has set us back from recent trends. Not only are there labor and food shortages, but Shipley’s budget has increased from using so much plastic and paper for pre-packaging foods. A lot had to change, but Sage Dining has worked tirelessly to offset these challenges in the face of a pandemic so that students and faculty can have the best experience possible.

“In the cafeteria, our real effort is to offer plant-based items for vegetarians and vegans. There is always something for everyone” says Ms. Norquist, an Upper School Science Teacher and Environmental Sustainability Coordinator. One way in which Shipley does this is by serving “beyond meats,” which are new vegan substitutes. Shipley tries to have all food delivered locally, but COVID-19 has forced Sage Dining to make an organization-wide change. Now, Sage has more vendors because “the shortages are incredible this year,” says Food Service Director Wayne Washington. Vendors for various types of foods, from chicken to chips to vegetables, are short drivers and producers. “The trucks are only a quarter of the way full or not at all sometimes. We have to make adjustments on the fly based on what food actually comes in each week” notes Mr. Washington. 

Although Sage Dining has always adjusted their school menu based on a 4-week cycle, this shortage creates even more obstacles for the cafeteria. Buying vegetables that are in season, peeling fruit every morning at 5 am, and adjusting what foods are served based on what sells out for students are just a few factors Sage Dining has to juggle. To add onto the daily struggles, Sage also has to stay COVID-19 friendly and environmentally conscious by keeping utensil dispensers out, labeling trash cans, pre-packaging food, and not letting food go to waste. Yet, many changes have gone unnoticed in the last couple of years.

“Sage prides itself on scratch-cooking. We have a team of nutritionists that approve our food and our scratch factor is always very high,” says Mr. Washington. Cooking from scratch basically just means that people are not using cans and doing everything homemade. Not only is everything from scratch, but Sage alerts people of the various allergies in each of the five stations of food. These are hugely important features of Shipley’s cafeteria that have been overlooked. 

“We have also developed a performance spotlight for student athletes that is basically designed for students on the day of the game. It tells you what to eat for practice and games so that athletes can perform at the highest level after classes” explains Mr. Washington. This performance spotlight has not received much attention despite all the time and effort put into it. Additionally, Sage Dining has an app that tells students what is for lunch and even allows people to make suggestions. The Mobile App is called “Touch of SAGE” and will only add to the already amazing dining experience Shipley provides. Though Sage Dining has faced numerous challenges since COVID-19 hit, many new developments have taken place that need more awareness and utilization. That starts with the students.

This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue of The Beacon.

From the Beacon

The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.