On Feb. 28, trays of cookies, pizza and smoothies whirled around Community’s first floor as the CHS jazz musicians played their hearts out. The soiree was to celebrate the grand opening of the Community Café. The new café is not just a new place to grab a quick snack or a drink, it is also an important addition for CHS to make the school more accessible and affordable to all.
There has long been a problem with receiving affordable lunch at CHS. Before the café, Community was the only Ann Arbor Public School (AAPS) to not have a functioning kitchen. 10 years ago, lunches were brown-bagged meals handed out in the office. Dean Marci Tuzinski and her predecessor Jen Hein worked to improve conditions and eventually, hot lunch was trucked over from the bigger, local schools. This, although certainly an improvement, left a bit to be desired as the food quality suffered from the truck rides and the breakfast remained bagged meals that lacked nutritional value.
Although Community is surrounded by a plethora of restaurants and options, it is not reasonable for most students to spend over $10 a day on lunch. The abundance of food but lack of affordability creates what Assistant Dean Rebecca Westrate calls a “food desert.”
“I really hope that it does attract people who want to have a healthy and really good meal as part of their daily high school experience, but don't have $12 or $15 every single day to go to a café and get something,” said Jenna Bacolor, the executive director for the AAPS wellness division. Bacolor is a supervisor of Angela Demetriou, the district wellness coordinator, who was a driving force in the CHS lunchroom project. Demetriou has spent the past 22 months working on the Community Café. When she first visited the lunchroom space at CHS Demetriou knew she wanted to change the environment of the room and overall quality of the lunches available. At every school in the AAPS district, Demetriou tries to create lunchrooms with a welcoming, warm atmosphere.
"What we love about this beautiful location is that it brings together that idea of health, wellness and well being, through what we eat, and also through those relationships that you enjoy with folks here at Community," - Superintendent Jeanice Swift
“I believe that nutrition is not just about food, it’s spiritual, it’s physical,” Demetriou said. “So I assess, and try to make the school lunchrooms more of a positive and chilling place to be.”
Bacolor, Demetriou and Superintendent Jeanice Swift were all in attendance to enjoy the festivities and celebrate the official opening of the Community Café with a ribbon-cutting.
Community’s café is special because it was designed to reflect Community and its students. Many took part in a survey that went around to gauge food preferences. The school worked hard with Chartwells, the AAPS food provider, to create a menu as special as Community. The team also had to work around Community’s space constraints to build a cafeteria that could fit. The menu is more “build it yourself” with DIY pizzas, salad and subs, as well as à la carte items for on-the-go dining.