New school lunch program promotes sustainability


Molly Baldino

Iesha Mayberry throws her leftover scraps into the new compost barrel.

Spencer Pogue

This year’s high school lunch program is dedicated to providing good food, improving environmental practices, and creating a happy environment for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) community.

This past school year marked the end of the high school’s decadelong contract with Chartwells, a regional food service provider. Upon learning this, culinary instructor and food program director Kevin Crowell saw an opportunity to improve the school lunch program overall, and last spring began working with the school and students to initiate major changes. 

After months of planning and preparation, the school hired Mercedes Ferreira to lead the cafeteria program, alongside a talented staff of cooks, custodians, and prep staff. Ferreira, who is excited to lead the cafeteria program, has made sustainability and community a top priority.

Mr. Crowell and Ms. Ferreira have been working with Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to create an effective composting and recycling system. “Since getting our reusable ware, we have lowered our paper and plastic usage from seven barrels per day down to two,” said Ferreira, “and IGI collects them free of cost.” 

They have also been working with Island farms in order to incorporate more local ingredients into meals. “We are really looking for a fresher and healthier lunch, hopefully made with more local ingredients when we can get it into our budget,” said Ms. Ferreira. “We’ve worked really hard to get the Island gleaners to give us local fruits and vegetables, which they’ve been great about. They have provided us with tomatoes, corn, and arugula, and even some wacky stuff like kohlrabi.” 

Additionally, Mr. Crowell stressed the importance of cooking from scratch. “I wanted to take a scratch-cooking approach so we wouldn’t be buying as many processed foods, so that we’d be creating our own meals to better serve the students and staff.” 

Student opinions on the new lunches are varied, but the efforts to improve environmental sustainability have been commended across the board. 

Senior Julia Dostal thinks more can be done to provide variety. “One improvement they could make would be to have pizza every day along with the main option,” she said, “or at least have multiple hot food options. On the other hand, I really like all of the efforts to reduce the amount of waste we produce. I think it’s a fantastic idea to use real bowls and plates instead of disposable ones.” 

Sophomore Kaya Seiman agrees, and hopes that students appreciate these efforts. “The efforts to be more environmentally conscious are great,” she said, “it’s just sad to see that some kids don’t seem to care about it.” 

Both Julia and Kaya agreed that there have been some standout meals. For Kaya, it was the veggie chili. She said she would like it to be an option every day. For Julia, it was the enchiladas. “They were so delicious,” she said.

To many, the cafeteria is the heart of the school, and the kitchen staff have remained dedicated to Ms. Ferreira’s main focus: “We always aim to make good food and to make people happy.”