By Kai Ruwende | November 8th, 2019
The new Plum Smart lunch program has been a topic of contention ever since its debut at Greenhills in 2018. In case you aren’t aware, an additional $1,053 was added to the cost of tuition in order to pay for anyone in the wider Greenhills community to have lunch provided at school. The program in place always has salad and sandwich bars, a main entree that accommodates special dietary needs, two soups, and a couple of side dishes. From a student’s perspective, it’s a pretty good deal. However, the from what I observed, the notion of others dining on our dollar was not a popular one, and quite a few students readily voiced that opinion. Admittedly, I was apprehensive as well. But as the 2019-2020 school term begins, I think it’s prudent to revisit the topic. To get more information, I sat down with Mr. Paul Gargaro (Director of Advancement) and asked for his perspective on the developing lunch program that is Plum Smart.
My conversation with Mr. Gargaro was as informative as it was eye-opening. He started our interview by mentioning how having a universal lunch system had been a long-term aspiration of the school. Previous lunch systems the school had tried were not necessarily bad, but they presented certain challenges. Most notably, the prior lunch systems had been based on students bringing cash to purchase their food for that day. The problem that this presented was one of equity; not everyone could afford to pay for the lunch offered at school or to bring a lunch from home. With the cost of our lunch included in tuition, it takes away that stress of food insecurity, especially since the families that receive financial aid get the lunch fee covered in their respective scholarships.
Not only is the completion of this long-standing goal helping make the Greenhills experience more accessible, it is a step in reinstating our beliefs of community and hospitality. Something in specific that Mr. Gargaro said is that he believes that food brings people together, and that it means something to sit down and have a meal with one's friends. He explained how most teachers would previously just bring their lunch and eat it in the teachers' lounge. Now, the faculty shares the dining hall with the student body, forcing the two groups to interact, and, furthermore, cultivating friendliness and familiarity.
Whether or not the ideals of financial equity and community are worth the additional tuition cost is your own conclusion to make, but it is hard to argue that Greenhills’ lunch program has not helped the community blossom, even outside of Greenhills.