NT cafeteria: 800 trays missing, new food on horizon

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NT cafeteria: 800 trays missing, new food on horizon

Logan Mounts

Logan Mounts

Logan Mounts

Despite recent food upgrades, the student cafeteria remains an unpopular spot to eat and socialize.

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The student cafeteria has always been controversial among Trevians, both because of the food service provided and the facility itself. This year is no different, as students find themselves confronted by various changes in their dining experience.

One such change is the transformation of the menu, according to New Trier’s Food Service Director Joshua Wenger. As part of Aramark’s ongoing commitment to the well-being of students, Wenger highlighted a variety of dining additions: Aramark’s “Custom Brothers Burger,” Peet’s Coffee & Pepsi products, a 100% juice fountain machine, Lou Malnati’s pizza every Wednesday (as opposed to every other Wednesday as in past), and a second cappuccino machine to reduce long lines.

Even though the expansion of food options for students has been  well-received, senior Richard Wu explained that Student Alliance remains active in their efforts to improve the dining experience even more. “This year we’ve been focusing on improving the variety of food in the cafeteria and currently we are looking towards getting orange chicken, mac and cheese, and smoothies,” said Wu, who also serves as Student Alliance’s president.

Principal Denise Hibbard lauded Student Alliance and Aramark for their contributions to the overall improvement of the cafeteria.

“I’ve been really impressed with how thoughtful Student Alliance has been in the process, and really trying to ensure that students are given an opportunity to fundraise for the various charities and organizations that we give to,” said Hibbard, who also commended the group’s close work with Aramark.

However, despite the aforementioned improvements, students haven’t exactly flocked to the cafeteria. “I’ve never even eaten in the cafeteria at lunch, let alone bought a lunch there,” said senior Dakota Dunn. According to some students, the atmosphere of the facility itself is reason enough to stay away. “It’s way too hot in the cafeteria,” said junior Sarah Fahey.

“We should Febreze the entire small cafeteria,” agreed junior Charlotte Purcell. “It feels too much like middle school, because of all the lunch tables. You think that because we’re in high school, the cafeteria should be a step up. But it really isn’t.”

These complaints aren’t exactly surprising, espically since the structure is antiquated. Superintendent Linda Yonke commented on the lengthy history of the cafeteria, stating that it was originally was built in 1912 and called a “Mess Hall” at the time. There was no kitchen. Students just ate lunches they brought from home. Yonke added that the entire section on the far west side of the pillars (near the fireplace) was added in 1923. Around the same time, the fireplace was taken apart to be rebuilt where it stands today. It used to be in the northeast corner, near the kitchen, which is kitty-corner from where it is now.

One way that administration has tried to remedy the lack of ambiance in the cafeteria has been with the addition of student-specific furniture, such as new couches.

Hibbard stated that Dr. Dohrer added the couches last year in the small cafeteria in an effort to add more seating, but it was also an effort to make the area more warm and welcoming.

Said Hibbard, “If you look at the furniture, it’s kind of fun, innovative-type furniture that hopefully attracts students who want to collaborate, talk, hang out, and eat in that area.”

Whether or not a majority of students eventually choose to eat in the cafeteria remains to be seen. For the students who already do spend their lunch period in the cafeteria, an inability to retain a steady inventory of cafeteria equipment, most notably lunch trays, has become a significant issue.

“There’s been an issue with trays not being returned, which seems like something simple, but it’s not, because we really don’t have a tray collector,” said Hibbard. “And so kids will put the trays on the big, round, garbage cans and the trays will tip.” Wegner added, “The Winnetka campus has lost 800 trays this fall.”

“It’s important that our students have the necessary appliances and items to ensure that they have what they need for their lunch, and we’re trying to figure out ways that we can collect kids’ garbage and trays in a way that we’re not losing money,” said Hibbard.

Even though the facility is unsatisfactory to students, the future looks bright. According to Yonke, a potential referendum would include an overhaul of New Trier’s Winnetka Campus’ west side, including a complete replacement of the existing cafeteria.

“We are hoping that a new cafeteria and student commons would be at the heart of a new building on the west side, and that it would be a place that students want to gather, during lunch and at other times of the day,” said Yonke.

Yonke’s vision for the new cafeteria expands on Dohrer’s initial efforts to make the area a more appealing place where students could gather.

“We want it to look less institutional, more warm and inviting,” said Yonke. “Hopefully [it would have] natural light and a wide variety of seating, food lines, and large and small gathering spaces.”

Adding to the influx of potential improvements on the horizon, according to Wenger, Aramark will be adding even more options to its menu this winter, including some of the food items pushed by Student Alliance.

Wenger said, “Beginning in January we will be offering grilled cheese sandwiches every Friday and bringing back the popular orange chicken on Tuesdays, plus mac-n-cheese every Thursday.”