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Café M moves to free meals

As part of the school’s effort to increase socioeconomic equity, Café M food is free for all students and faculty for the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year. Last school year, the food vendor CulinArt was replaced with SAGE. Marlborough chose SAGE because of its reputation in the food vendor industry.

“They are a large player in the food service industry; they have been around for 30 years,” Auxiliary Services Manager Scott Appel said. “They specialize in independent schools and colleges. They are highly respected in the industry and they have shown a strong track record in all-inclusive environments.”

Café M food first became free as a COVID-19 precaution during hybrid learning so students would not have to wait in line. After last year, the school wanted to keep food free to promote socioeconomic equity because the food from Culinart was too expensive for many students to afford. A donor enabled the school to pay for all of the food for this semester, according to Head of School Pricilla Sands.

“Someone came forward to pay a big portion of the cost so the school picked up the other half despite not being budgeted for it,” Sands said. “We wanted students to have unlimited free food, breakfast and lunch, so no one would be hungry.”

Not all students are happy about the transition to a new vendor. Many students wish that SAGE offered a wider array of options for food.

“As somebody who used to eat the Café M food often, I feel really frustrated with the limited options this year,” Marcella Tracy ‘22 said.

Unlike CulinArt, SAGE does not offer snacks throughout the day. This is a downside of the new vendor for some students. 

“Although I am very grateful that the food in Café M is free, I do like the previous vendor better because of the wide variety of snacks and food items that it provided,” Lauren Seidel ‘23 said.

Some dislike how SAGE labels foods as green, yellow or red to denote the nutrient density.

“I think that labeling foods as ‘healthy’ with a green dot or ‘unhealthy’ with a red is extremely rigid and creates a toxic environment,” Tracy said.

Despite its drawbacks, other students think that these sacrifices are worthwhile if it means that all students are able to eat at Café M.

“I definitely miss my $10 sushi, but the thing is that $10 is not equitable, so as a student that can afford food and not worry about it of course I miss the quality expensive food, but just in general for the school I think it is a lot better that the food is free because anyone can eat everything and it is not an equity issue ever,” All-School President Sophia Miller ‘22 said.  

Since there is not enough funding to pay for food in the second semester, students likely will have to pay for Café M food after the end of the first semester. However, the school is working to create a lasting solution to increase access to food at Marlborough.

“It’s going to be hard to do because the school cannot pick up the full cost,” Sands said. “What we hope to do in the future is make it a part of tuition and so students who received financial aid would have that amount directed to their account.”

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