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Mather Elementary’s first day with My Way Cafe

It was a sunny, hot Monday in September that was the first of fall but still felt like summer. As I walked into the Mather Elementary, I saw a sign that proudly distinguished the school as the oldest elementary school in the United States. It felt fitting that today would be the first day that things got shaken up a bit in the cafeteria, with the rollout of My Way Cafe, a new cafeteria model that allows students to choose what they want for lunch. 

On the menu: nachos. Students had the option to have either corn tortilla chips or brown rice with black beans or ground, seasoned beef. Then, students could pick from salsa, cheese, and jalapenos to top their meal, and then choose any of the vegetables from the salad bar to round out their meal. 

Student's "Nacho Bar" tray at the Mather with brown rice, black beans, roasted corn, cheese, tortilla chips, and salad.

A student’s nacho lunch tray on the first day of My Way Cafe of brown rice, black beans, roasted corn, cheese, corn tortilla chips, watermelon, and salad.

The change-up made for a bit of chaos and confusion, especially with younger students who could not always make up their minds quickly. But the staff and teachers were patient, and helped move students through the line. 

Sitting down at tables, students were audibly pleased with their new school lunches. Some students asked, “Do we get this every day?” They gave me big high fives when I told them that they would be getting fresh food like this every day. Another girl asked, “How much does it cost?” She gave me a big smile when I told her that school lunch is free for all students. 

The lunch monitors in particular noticed that students were eating more of their meals than before, and appreciated the variety of vegetables available for students to eat. One boy exclaimed, “Wow, we have a real chef in here now!” He was eager to know what was on the menu tomorrow. 

This year, the My WayCafe model is expanding to Boston Public Schools in Dorchester and South Boston. Check out the MyWayCafe website for more information about the rollouts and the monthly menu. 

This post was written by Leilani Stacy, a FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member at the Blackstone Innovation Elementary School.

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