New Inclusive Dining Services
In 2018 we completely renovated our kitchen and dining hall. In addition to new equipment, we have also changed the dining experience for our 750 middle and upper school students.
Lunch is now inclusive of tuition, and modeled after the finest dining offered in independent schools. The focus of our dining program is on nutrition education, a wellness-oriented approach to eating, and environmental sustainability. The program also includes after-school snack.
“We know that 21st century eaters can be finicky,” said Headmaster James Hickey, Ph.D. “Our new, all-inclusive lunch program models a college dining atmosphere that supports a holistic approach to education that advances wellness, nutrition, and environmental sustainability.”
Our food service partner – SAGE Dining – focuses on quality service, community, nutrition, safety, education, sustainability, and delicious food made from scratch using seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. SAGE counts among its clientele numerous Catholic schools, independent day schools, and boarding schools in the nation.
“The food is very varied and it changes every day,” Aingealica Venuto '19 said. “It’s great, it tastes fresh and homemade.”
Each day, Sage offers fresh-made menu items, such as a salad and deli bar with house-made dressings, fresh ingredients purchased from local vendors, and in-house roasted beef, turkey, and chicken; a healthy main dish with a variety of starches and fresh vegetables as sides, authentic ethnic meals such as Italian dishes, expanded vegetarian options, themed do-it-yourself stations, and even display cooking. Austin Prep installed a brick oven, so homemade brick-oven pizza is on the menu weekly.
The variety of main lunch dishes include barbecue chicken, roasted fresh turkey sandwiches, hamburgers, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese (including a gluten-free option), pizza and vegetable noodle soup. Side dishes include green salads, roasted vegetables, corn, rice, baked French fries and potato salad.
On-site chefs know our school community and tailor our menu according to students’ preferences. Students are able to eat as much as they like.
The project is part of the our efforts to strengthen community. In the tradition of St. Augustine – our patron – gathering for a meal is the center of family life.
“The dinner table – or in our case the lunch table – is the focal point of family, and of fellowship and of camaraderie,” Dr. Hickey said.
In addition to the new kitchen, the wooden circular tables and chairs – seating eight per table – have given the dining hall a true sense of togetherness.
“It flows much better,” seventh-grader Gavin Brady said. “Last year you had to eat really fast and it felt rushed. Now you can eat and talk with your friends. It’s better than the long tables with the benches, when you tried to cram everyone in at the table.”
Eighth-grader Daniel Cory agrees. “It’s more relaxed.”
This type of dining model is at more than 1,000 schools nationwide, including Catholic secondary schools. SAGE Dining works every day to provide thousands of students good, tasty food, including students with food allergies and those who are particular.
All Sage employees are extensively trained in food allergy awareness, the menus provide a wide variety, and community members are well-informed through complete ingredient lists and serving line signs. Sage even has a comprehensive allergen filter, which can be accessed through an online menu and phone app, to make planning lunches easy.
We hosted a Blessing and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony of the new space before the first lunch was served at the start of the 2018-2019 school year. In attendance were invited guests from the Town of Reading, as well as alumni Richard Meelia '67; Trustee Michael Barry, Ph.D., '79; and Fr. Art Johnson, OSA, one of our school's Founding Friars.
“It’s a better school, it’s a brighter school, and I’m a very proud alum of Austin Prep,” Mr. Meelia said.
Sage Dining Services created a special program to help educate diners about nutrition and make smarter food choices.
The Spotlight Program® is a color-coded dot system. The colors are assigned based on a dish's nutritional value and its fat, salt, and added sugar content. The dots provide guidance on portion control.
Each menu item is marked with a green, yellow, or red dot.
Green-dot foods are the foundation of the plate. Every day, half of the plate should include a variety of green-dot foods for added color and nutrients.
Yellow-dot foods add a mix of nutrients and flavors to the plate. Balance the plate by filling a quarter to a half of it with yellow-dot foods.
Red-dot foods may or may not provide all the valuable nutrients you are looking for, but definitely contain some, and should be eaten in moderation. Focusing on portion or frequency is a great way to enjoy red-dot foods. Reserve a quarter of the plate for red-dot foods or enjoy them a couple times per week.
Every item on Austin Prep's online menu, and in the Touch of Sage app, will include a dot color.
The dining hall will display a Sage Spotlight Program® poster showing how a plate should be created. In addition, there will either be printed menu signs or a tablet displaying the dot colors next to each menu item being served.
Sage's team of registered dietitians routinely evaluates and routinely updates the program based on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines. In addition, the dietitians analyze recipes and review menus for balance, completeness, and accuracy.
If you would like to explore more about the Spotlight Program®, click here for that section of the Sage Dining website.