Culinary Class or Cafeteria Cash?

Competition With Cafeteria Forces Closure of Eagle’s Nest Café, Leaving Culinary Arts and Its Customers Starved

The Eagle’s Nest Café was banned from selling to students during lunch at the end of last year because the district felt it took business from the school cafeteria, violating the district wellness policy according to Culinary Arts teacher Betty Ewing. The Eagle’s Nest was an alternative to the cafeteria where the Culinary Arts students made food and sold to peers during lunch.

The district’s wellness policy, required because the school’s participating in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program, states, “Any food sales conducted outside the district’s food service program … shall not reduce student participation in the district’s food service program.”

When the Eagle’s Nest was opened 11 years ago, the district approved its existence despite the policy. According to Ewing, when the café was created, the cafeteria “was not running well” and still “isn’t running well.”

The reason for creating the Eagle’s Nest Café was to allow for students to experience “peer commerce” and strengthen their culinary skills and experience. The money made from the café went back into purchasing supplies to make more food for the next day.

“Our biggest thing is to offer trade and alternatives for students who want to get into my industry,” Ewing said. “[One of] the guidelines for this class is to have an actual production going on.”

Without the sales from the café, the classes cannot make as much food as they used to and have to do more book work.

“You can talk about food all day long, but if you don’t actually get to cook it, you can’t gain the skills and experience,” health teacher Vickie Christensen said.

Although the class does not have the same financial support as it did last year, it can still provide students with a suitable culinary experience.

“[The Eagle’s Nest] was a really powerful component of the culinary arts class that gave students an understanding of the entire culinary arts business,” Principal Wynne Satterwhite said.

Last year, around 50 students ate at the Eagle’s Nest each day, and the culinary students would make about $100 a day.

“If 50 kids are going to jeopardize a cafeteria production, then there are more problems than are being listed,” Ewing said.

According to Associate Superintendent of Business Services Joe White, the district food services expenses are $60,000 greater than last year. This financial problem makes the cafeteria’s competition “even more significant.”

“We’re trying to tighten up our regulations because we, during this period of time, have gone to a wellness program that we’re required to adhere to,” White said. “We had an audit by the state … [that] just took place—I think it was a couple of months ago—[which] said absolutely you must abide by all the rules.”

Sophomore Zach Garcia is one of last year’s regular Eagle’s Nest customers who is “really upset.”

“It was the one place on campus I felt I could get healthy food at a reasonable cost,” Zach said. “I also felt good supporting the class and helping them buy more materials, because it must be expensive for them to make so much food.”

Whether or not the closing of the café has anything to do with it, the cafeteria’s sales have gone slightly up this year according to Food Service Coordinator Debra Godfrey.

“The line is still out the door, but now we have three points of sales: the cart, the snack bar and the cafeteria,” Godfrey said. “We’re still selling about the same each day.”

The sales made at the cafeteria go back into funds for the following year’s food supplies for both the school and Mountain View High School.

While the cafeteria seems to be make progress, the Culinary Arts classes are trying to find new ways to receive income. According to Satterwhite, the culinary students cannot sell to students during the hours in which the cafeteria is open. The classes do, however, normally sell to the staff three times a week.

“There is still a commercial venture going on,” White said. “All the functions of an operation are still there. There may be a lot less, [but] in my mind, the experience is different but still similar.”

Meanwhile, Ewing is looking for ways to make up for the loss of the Eagle’s Nest, but believes the closure doesn’t solve the cafeteria’s financial problems.