Marblehead Community Charter Public School (MCCPS) has been serving children in the Boston area for about 24 years, and has always had a salad bar. So what makes their participation in the Salad Bars to Schools program so special?
District Size: 230 students
Number of Schools in District: 1
Free/Reduced Rate: less than 10%
District Average Daily Participation: 48%
Not all salad bars are created equal, and time truly ages them. Up until last summer, MCPCS was not part of the SB2S program, but they did have their own salad bar. When Marblehead received their new salad bar from SB2S last summer, Food Service Director and Chef Laura Wood recalls that there was a seventh grade summer camp taking place at the school.
“The kids who were at school for the camp just stared at the new salad bar, admiring it,” Chef Wood says. “No one realized how old the previous bar was until we got the new one from SB2S.” She describes their old salad bar as outdated and unusable.
Chef Laura Wood has been working at Marblehead as the Food Service Director for 10 years, and her passion for fueling students is strong. Although her official title is Food Service Director, she also works as a chef, helping cook every day at the school. Chef Wood holds a culinary degree with a fine dining background, which explains why she prefers to run her kitchen more like a restaurant than a cafeteria and places emphasis on healthy choices on and off the salad bar.
Chef Wood prides herself on the strong longevity of her school food staff. She hires employees who express a passion for cooking or who have cooking experience, and she feels that this has benefited the day-to-day operations of the salad bar. They call themselves “Not Your Average Lunch Ladies.” Between Chef Wood and her kitchen manager, she feels that there are understood expectations that their staff abide by, like keeping the kitchen a low waste space. One way they keep their kitchen a low waste space is by encouraging students to take only as much as they will eat from the salad bar.
At MCCPS, participation at the salad bar is very popular among students and within the local community. Parents are always invited to visit for lunch, and there are many regulars who say that the MCCPSS cafe is the best deal in town. In order to ensure that the salad bar stays popular with students, Chef Wood meets with each grade to review the breakfast and lunch protocol with the kids at the beginning of each year. She always reminds students that the salad bar is an opportunity for them to branch out and try new things.
To keep their salad bar fresh, MCCPS serves produce on their salad bar from their 3 school gardens—that is, when the woodchucks haven’t eaten it all. “We had a family of woodchucks living near the garden, four of them. They ate everything in the garden besides the arugula. They got so fat they couldn’t fit under the deck anymore,” says Chef Wood. Despite the invasive woodchucks, and with the help of a dedicated food service team, the salad bar and cafe at MCCPS are a huge success.