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When we think of school lunches, thoughts of unappetizing food often come to mind. Nardin Academy is working to change that image.

The school had been hearing from students and parents alike that they wanted healthier options to be offered at school in the most efficient way possible. Most of the food that was being offered wasn’t healthy, and the lunch line took about 20 minutes to navigate. Nardin needed a change.

“Our new system is healthier, tastes better and looks better,” said sophomore Zoe Pearce.

This year, the cafeteria has started a new system that aims to have all the food it serves come from local businesses and farms. The lunches that are now being offered are much more nutritious.

Nardin students are now raving about how good it smells in the hallways and, even better, how good the food tastes. Girls in the high school have noticed that the food even looks better and fresher. For example, a day’s lunch at Nardin could be vegetarian stir fry with broccoli and carrots served with fresh fruit and sweet potato fries. Also, soup and salad bar is offered every day along with fresh sandwiches.

Ariana Revelas, a sophomore, said it’s “a new, better tasting, healthier way to enjoy lunch.”

Nardin now employs its own cafeteria staff, and instead of just referring to the staff members as “lunch ladies,” the school is encouraging students to greet the cafeteria staff by name to let them know they are respected and appreciated.

Also new to the cafeteria this year is the system of monitoring the waste that is produced during lunch. Separate bins are used in the cafeteria to separate food scraps, plastics, etc. The waste and old food is taken to be used as compost at Good Earth, a soil farm in Lancaster. And in another effort to reduce its waste, the school replaced its disposable plates and plastic utensils with regular plates and silverware.

Emily Rand, a sophomore, said, “I think the way that they are recycling at Nardin teaches us to pay attention to what we are throwing out and, in the bigger picture, the amount of waste we produce.”

An efficiency expert helped rearrange the cafeteria so that students could get through the line faster and receive their food in a more convenient manner. Registers were placed away from the food line to help get people out of the way, and the salad bar was relocated to help traffic flow.

Nardin also is welcoming a guest chef from a local restaurant each month. Last month, Tempo’s head chef Paul Jenkins prepared cider-brined chicken with apple chutney, cheddar mashed potatoes, arugula and sweet onion salad and pumpkin bisque, and a pear and cranberry crisp with cream for dessert.

Principal Rebecca Reeder said, “There’s a large amount of interest” in food made from scratch.

“To be able to sit down, enjoy a nice dining experience in the middle of a busy day” is one of the main goals of the new cafeteria system, said Leslie Johnson, vice president for finance and operations at the school.

Brianna Fenzl is a sophomore at Nardin Academy.