I ask myself, “What would I want if I were a student here?”
Food at Northfield Mount Hermon meets three criteria: It has to be good for you, it has to be good for the planet, and you have to want to eat it.
So we serve things like mahi mahi with pineapple salsa, vegetarian fettuccini, design-your-own stir-fry, and homemade pizza. For dessert, there might be blueberry pie or peanut butter bars. There are lots of choices, including several daily vegetarian options, and our cooks love suggestions almost as much as they love the popular “chef’s choice” meals at which they really show off their culinary skills.
More than 700 meals are served at a typical lunch or dinner in the centrally located Alumni Hall (which was built as West Hall in 1909.) Hot meals are available at specific times, but the extensive salad, cereal, and deli bars are open nearly all day for grazing. No assigned seats, no formal dress requirements; we want mealtimes to be relaxing and comfortable.
Because we have our own farm, some of what you eat at NMH comes from NMH. Depending on the season, there’s milk and ice cream from the cows-in-residence, herbs from the garden, maple syrup on the pancakes, and fresh cider to drink. What we don’t grow ourselves, we try to buy locally. We’ve committed 10 percent of our budget to buy from area growers.
Beyond that, we try to employ sustainable and responsible practices, like serving fair trade coffee and composting all our vegetable kitchen waste. Occasionally, we even pile up a day's discarded food to dramatically display what gets wasted. And in 2003, NMH started the “trayless revolution" among secondary schools, colleges, and universities to save water and energy and reduce food waste.