Cafeteria to introduce healthier food and sustainable materials


Graphic by Jeremy Suh

Earlier this year, the cafeteria began using new sustainable and eco-friendly materials. For example, the utensils and trays are now compostable.

The cafeteria is going greener and cleaner.

Before COVID-19 closed schools down, the high school cafeteria, due to town laws and rising awareness for students’ welfare, was undergoing the process of replacing their plastic cutlery and processed food with compostable alternatives and fresh food.

The town and high school recognized a need for change, so professional chef Angela Cortese was hired as the new high school cafeteria manager starting January of this year. Cortese said she introduced healthier and better quality foods in the cafeteria.

“I don’t blame the students who sometimes wrinkle their noses and walk away when they see cafeteria food. We want good food that students are excited to eat. But we are also trying to make it nutritional, and move away from processed food,” Cortese said.

According to cafeteria worker Gabrielle Stefura, the cafeteria will continue to move away from unhealthy food and make more food from scratch, as it provides a better source of nutrition.

“Lots of foods nowadays are so processed and preserved, and it’s not the best for your health. The cafeteria is trying to make positive changes. This is something important to us,” Stefura said.

Cortese said the cafeteria is implementing these initiatives for better food quality and will continue to do so in the future.

“We want the food to not be boxed and frozen. Instead of using boxed mashed potatoes, we’re using real potatoes. We are doing rotisserie chicken instead of buying chicken patties. For food like fish sticks, we get fresh fish, bread it, then put it in the oven. The cafeteria has to sell the same food as before, but one is of better quality than the other.” Cortese said.

Virginia Lynch, another cafeteria worker, said it is very important to improve the cafeteria. She acknowledges that the staff was doing everything they could to better it for the students.

“I think it’s finally coming together. It’s taking a bit of time, as any change does, but it is coming together. Things look a little different from in the past but we are all working hard together to take care of the students. It’s all about the students,” Lynch said.

The food has not been the only part of the cafeteria that has undergone an upgrade. Another addition to the high school’s cafeteria has been the utensils and trays, both of which are now compostable. Stefura said that the cafeteria understands the continuing importance of preserving the environment.

“Because of environmental issues, we’re moving away from plastics, and we’re getting sustainable, recyclable utensils, and all our containers are biodegradable. This is very important for us as a community and school because we want to be sustainable and cost-efficient,” Stefura said.

Lynch said that the cafeteria can help all students by ensuring they’re all accounted for and given quality nutrition.

“I like to think I’ve done my best to help the students along, and it’s part of my job to help these kids by giving them good food. It’s not a big job, but I think we can make an impact,” Lynch said.

Cortese said she hopes that the cafeteria and student body can have better communication in the future, so both parties can be happy and benefit from each other.

“I want to try and make a suggestion box. I want to see what you guys want more and less of. I’m interested in your opinions. I, unfortunately, can’t get out there and interact with students because I’m busy making food. But I am interested and I want to make students happy. I want more dialogue between the cafeteria and the students,” Cortese said.

Lynch said she believes that the new additions and the continuing improvement to the cafeteria are important to the well-being and growth of students.

“It’s important for everything to be natural and eco-friendly because students are growing in all aspects, and have a whole life ahead of them, so we want to do our part and make this possible. Teachers are working hard to educate students, and we’re trying to feed their brains so they can thrive and achieve their maximum potential,” Lynch said.