Four Benefits of Ravenscroft’s All-Inclusive Dining Plan

Four Benefits of Ravenscroft’s All-Inclusive Dining Plan
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Deanna Martinez-Bey

Implemented in partnership with Flik Independent School Dining, the plan provides families with an easy, cost-effective way to feed their students during the school day.

In 2022 — the same year as the opening of the Olander Center for Student Life at the A.E. Finley Activity Center, which includes a kitchen and dining hall for Middle and Upper School students — Ravenscroft rolled out an all-inclusive dining plan for students in first through 12th grades. A partnership with Flik Independent School Dining, the plan builds the cost of fresh lunches into tuition, providing families with an easy, cost-effective way to feed their students during the school day.

“Flik offers our students nutritious lunches with global flavors in appropriate portion sizes,” Ravenscroft’s Chief Financial and Operations Officer Greg Hodges, whose office oversees the program, said. “Students can visit the food counter multiple times to ensure they have the fuel to sustain them for the remainder of the school day.”

Two years into the program, under the management of Director of Dining Services Pavleta Alexieva and Executive Chef Jackie Thomas, parents, students and staff say they’re enjoying what the school’s two dining halls are offering. Here, we explore four benefits of the program.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Executive Chef Jackie Thomas; Director of Dining Services Pavleta Alexieva; Flik’s team in the Olander Center

1. Nutritious meals for growing bodies (and palates)

Aligning with the school’s focus on student health and well-being, Flik serves a variety of healthy food options made with growing bodies in mind. All food, including dressings, soups and sauces, is crafted on-site daily, and the menus in both dining halls offer meals designed to please a wide range of palates. The Olander Center’s dining hall also offers breakfast and snacks on a pay-as-you-go system.

Daily offerings include pasta, pizza, burgers, deli sandwiches, a fruit station and a salad bar as well as an ever-changing lineup of hot entrées, starches and vegetables. To encourage students to make good choices, meals are appropriately portioned and avoid junk-food fillers.

Daily food options include (clockwise from top left) hot entrées with sides, fresh baked goods and a salad bar featuring dressings made in-house; at bottom left, students navigate the Olander Center’s bustling food-service area, with the day’s lunch offerings listed on the stand display at bottom left.

“The program no longer includes chips and soda,” Pavleta noted. “We found that students often chose a bag of chips rather than eating real meals. Students are now consuming more-nutritious options for lunch.”

Parents said they’re thrilled to have such healthy and convenient options.

“The Flik dining experience has offered us the convenience of not having to plan and prepare healthy options for lunch on a regular basis,” Middle and Upper School parent Kimberly Bennett said.

Students said they enjoy the wide range of flavors as well.

The secret to making lunch memorable is being able to prepare cuisine that is not just delicious but also culturally inspired. The abundance that the dining hall provides makes it complicated to choose three [favorites], but mine include the roast turkey, Puerto Rican rotisserie chicken and the sautéed cabbage.

— Michael Owens ’24

At left, Flik employee Didi Almonte slices fresh pineapple in Papou’s Kitchen in the Olander Center; at right, pepperoni pizza is plated and ready for hungry diners.

2. Allergen awareness and accommodation of dietary restrictions

Flik’s commitment includes providing for students and staff with allergies or other dietary restrictions. Menus are designed to accommodate gluten-free, peanut- and tree nut-free, and vegetarian dining needs. All recipe ingredients are screened to identify potential allergens, and staff are trained to recognize common allergens and proactively avoid cross-contamination. 

Signage posted in both dining halls identifies common allergens in the day’s offerings, and diners with questions can check in with Flik staff, who can then provide tailored recommendations.

“As a parent of a child with food allergies, I’ve felt comfortable sending my son to school knowing that Flik’s practices allow him to manage his meals as safely as possible,” Lower School parent David Durrette said. 

I had the opportunity to volunteer at lunch and was very impressed by the dedicated staff. Their commitment to assisting students with allergies and specific dietary requirements was remarkable.

— Josefina Hanna, lower school parent

Upper School student Arnav Gupta ’24 said having many options available to vegetarian students and staff “fosters a sense of inclusion and belonging in our community. As a practicing Hindu from India, where many of us are vegetarians, I appreciate Flik’s commitment to providing options for those with dietary preferences or restrictions. They always have a tasty vegetarian entrée as well as many other vegetarian options at the fruit, salad, panini, pizza and pasta stations.”

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Baldwin McMickens ’35 selects items from the salad bar in the Lower School Dining Hall; students at the Olander Center’s deli station pick from a choice of fresh breads, meats and fixings; Jack O’Connor ’35, wearing a color-coded lanyard to alert to staff to a food allergy, smiles as he picks up his tray of food.

3. Global flavors and a commitment to sustainability

Flik’s meals also incorporate international flavors, exposing students to diverse culinary experiences and new flavors. Alexieva said students’ favorite globally inspired dishes include Greek, Jamaican and Indian cuisine. Meals are also planned to align with annual cultural or heritage celebrations, giving the entire community an opportunity to mark special times in the lives of their fellow Ravens.

I work with a diverse team, and their cultures are important to me. I want to know about the foods they love and the meals that are important to them. The same is true for the students and staff here at Ravenscroft. When we serve special meals for Diwali, Lunar New Year and Passover, for example, I feel like I’m serving them a little taste of home.

— Executive Chef Jackie Thomas

“I think it’s great that the cafeteria serves international food for holidays as well as year-round,” Catie Chua ’26 said. “Most other schools that I’ve been to haven’t done that at all, so to have something like this that acknowledges different cultures — some of which I am a part of — feels really big to me.”

What’s more, ingredients for meals are sustainably and humanely sourced through the worldwide network of Compass Group, the food and hospitality service provider under whose umbrella Flik operates. Alexieva noted that the company partners with local farms through Fresh Point to deliver their produce. “In addition, the majority of our meats are halal and seafood sustainable,” she added.

At left, a graphic from Compass Group highlights their sustainable practices; in both Ravenscroft dining halls, Flik marks cultural and heritage celebrations, such as Lunar New Year (at right), with special menus.

4. More time to enjoy meals — and one another

The all-inclusive meal plan has another important benefit, one that was at the heart of plans for the Olander Center as a whole: bringing the Ravenscroft community together. With more space and time in both the Olander Center and the Lower School Dining Hall (which formerly served the entire school community), Ravens of all ages are able to enjoy a lunch that is not only nutritious and tasty but also unrushed. Seniors — who not so long ago went off campus for lunch — now socialize with their peers and fit in lunchtime study sessions and meetings. 

“Olander Center is the most convenient place on campus. Instead of the long checkout lines we used to experience in the Lower School cafeteria, our all-inclusive lunch system allows us to get our food quickly without worrying if there will be enough space to sit,” Adam BenMoshe ’24 said. “There’s also a wide variety of food to pick from, so there’s something for everyone.”

At left, Maggie Minsley 30, Amaya Crichlow 30, Raegan Williams 30 and Lily Meeks 30 pose together in front of Papou’s Kitchen in the Olander Center; at right, Dorian Robbins 29, Graham Sundstrom ’29 and Henry Marlowe 29 share a laugh as they enjoy lunch.

Many faculty and staff also opt to spend their lunch breaks in the dining halls.

We get to experience different cuisines as well! The dining options encourage staff to congregate, dine and socialize, building community.

— Tawambi Settles, Assistant Head of Upper School for Student Leadership

All in all, Alexieva concluded, families are enjoying the benefits Ravenscroft and Flik hoped for when they kicked off this program two years ago. “The positive feedback so far is that students are tasting different flavors and loving them!” she said.

The Olander Center’s dining hall and adjacent outdoor seating provides ample space for Middle and Upper School students to enjoy their meals; now dedicated to serving just the Lower School, their dining hall provides plenty of room for students to spread out, visit with friends and enjoy their meals as well.

Above: Third-graders Raina Manickam, Madeline Jebsen and Anna Canavan prepare to go through the serving line in the Lower School Dining Hall.