About Spence

Food Services

Here in the Spence Kitchen, we view what we eat as part of the solution to environmentally sound decision-making. We always remember that we are part of greater environmental network, and our choices foster resilient and alternative modes of food production while maintaining equity for all people at every point of the food chain. We try to look at what and how we buy, consume and discard in relation to our goals of lowered environmental impact and high-quality nutrition.

We embrace the concept of sustainable development and its focus on people, planet and profit to guide our daily decision-making. As a community, we strive to engage in interrupting the standard business-as-usual model that often falls short of our stated sustainability goals.

Furthermore, the team supports self-awareness and mindfulness. As such, we are open to change and always reassessing how we approach our goals. We love feedback and know student success is linked with our engagement in creating a positive dining experience.

Seven Pillars of Sustainability

  1. We buy seasonal and local whenever possible.
  2. We buy organic whenever possible.
  3. We follow a “Whole Foods Cuisine” with minimal processed foods.
  4. We link our farmers to our community as much as possible. 
  5. We look to recycle, reuse, reduce and compost as much waste as possible.
  6. We know the people who produce our food deserve living wages and healthy work environments.
  7. We promote dietary behaviors that reflect back to our sustainability beliefs. We educate around nutrition, personal and community wellness and the cultural significance of food, always remembering the joy of communal eating and shared play and breaks.

FAQ's About Spence Kitchen

List of 14 frequently asked questions.

  • Q: Does the Spence kitchen use local or organic food?

    Often we are asked about local or organic food in the Spence Kitchen. Before 2000, “local food” was a fringe term. Books like Michael Pollan’s 2006 Omnivore’s Dilemma focused Americans' attention to standard practices in our food system. Our large and hard to trace food supply left many wanting more, including us here at The Spence School. We look to the Eat Local movement, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Organics labeling and Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Movement for philosophy and resources to help us make more soundly sustainable choices.
  • Q: What percentage of food that my daughter eats in the dining hall is made on site?

    Our chefs make the vast majority of food consumed in the dinning hall. We use minimally processed ingredients. Snacks are available outside the lunch period for sports and afterschool groups and these tend to be factory-made. Yes, we make our granola, croutons, cookies, cakes, frosting, cheese boards, dressings and applesauce. We do serve some purchased salad dressings on the salad bar and unsweetened canned applesauce to Lower School. We buy and bake our mini croissants, but we make our muffins in house.
  • Q: Why are there restrictions around disposable utensils and plates?

    There is no throwing something away. We are committed to lessening waste wherever possible. Just because something is tossed into a garbage bin doesn’t mean we are no longer responsible for it. Waste management is as important to us as buying the perfect apple. We ask our community to be mindful and use disposable utensils and plates minimally. They are costly, not only in price but to our environment. We provide cutlery, porcelain plates, mugs and durable plastic cups, so you don’t have toss anything into the waste bin. New York City recycles all rigid plastics. As such, we ask our community to recycle these items. We have compostable cups and plates. So remember to compost them. It is the better decision concerning waste management. We ask everyone to take a few seconds from his/her day and make the best decision. We can’t do this alone. We can only foster a low waste school. We challenge you to make it happen.
  • Q: How does the Spence kitchen create a menu?

    We plan a month at a time. Within the month we try and represent plenty of seasonal foods with inclusion of one or two fish entrees, a weekly vegetarian day and any themes that correspond with curriculum in the greater building. Also integral to menu planning is space, time and, of course, cost. We are aware of old favorites and take them into consideration while still introducing new foods and flavors because exposure to new foods is at the heart of any great food program.
  • Q: My child is a picky eater. What is your game plan?

    We believe that children with exposure to plenty of flavors and textures will grow up to be healthy and mindful eaters. As such, we provide a large range of foods. Everyone has different favorites and different health considerations. Picky eaters tend to gravitate toward carbohydrate-heavy foods and/or foods with little added flavors. Sauces and textures may intimidate picky eaters, so we provide non-sauced options. We also provide healthy, fermented white sourdough bread, and we have plain veggies, fruits and a sandwich bar for those who want to opt out of the main entrée.
    Furthermore, we look to make personal connections with the students so they can talk to us about the food on their plate. Some personal attention can go a long way. We encourage everyone to taste new things and to encourage friends to taste new things. We want positivity and excitement around our food program. Not everyone is going to love everything, but the goal is to raise women without limitations, culinary or otherwise.
  • Q: My child has dietary restrictions. How does Green Cuisine address her dietary needs?

    We address many types of dietary restrictions daily, including allergies and intolerances of all sorts. We have gluten-free alternatives everyday. When applicable, we have a dairy free option.

    We ask for students and parents to inform us about any restrictions or needs so that we can accommodate them appropriately. We want everyone to feel comfortable and have her needs addressed as best as possible. 
  • Q: Why is dessert only served once a week?

    This is our most frequently asked question. The answer is simple. We have limitations. We are limited by space and time. We love dessert, and we promise you a treat weekly. But, cakes and cookies take a lot of time, which is in short supply. Furthermore, sugary foods aren’t the best for our health. We serve them like the treat they are, in moderation and with love. 
  • Q: Where does Spence food come from?

    Milk and Eggs: Milk and eggs are sourced from Farmer's Cow. Farmer's Cow is a local midsize farm that does not use artificial growth hormones (rBST) and only uses antibiotics if cows are sick. Farmer's Cow and The Spence School align in our sustainable philosophy.

    Chicken: Chicken is purchased from Cascun Farm in Greene, New York. Again, we feel their product is produced in an ethical and sustainable way.

    Yogurt: We serve Stonyfield yogurt in Lower School and Ronnybrook yogurt in Middle/Upper School.

    Grains and Beans: Our grains and beans come from Cayuga Pure Organics in Upstate New York and from UNFI (United Natural Foods). UNFI is a distributor of natural and organic foods. We buy Lundberg Eco-Farmed short grain brown rice, organic quinoa, organic wheatberries and organic beans.

    Produce: Spence uses GrowNYC, a food hub and delivery service supporting regional food producers by making their products available to wholesale buyers throughout the city. When in season we purchase assorted vegetables, fruits and apple cider using this innovative hub. Unfortunately, seasonal, local foods have their limitations. We buy produce from Baldor. Baldor is a leading food purveyor in New York City.

    We have great apples here at Spence. Nothing tastes more like New York than a crisp heirloom apple. We are proud to serve apples from the Migliorelli and Samascott Orchards. On average Spence eats 14 cases of apples a week. That's about 350 pounds of apples a week!

    Baked Goods: Our weekly desserts and most sweets we serve are made in house by our pastry chefs. Our bread mainly comes from Tom Cat Bakery. On the rare occasion we serve ice cream, we purchase from Blue Marble.
  • Q: What drinks are provided for my daughter?

    We encourage the children to drink water when thirsty. We provide a daily drink like lemonade, ice tea, cranberry apple water or cucumber water. Every Tuesday and Thursday our drink is made without sugar. Our drinks are never too sweet. Upper School students also have the privilege of drinking hot tea and coffee. We use Stumptown Coffee. Please bring your own reusable cup and help us reduce waste.
  • Q: How do sustainability efforts impact food?

    The word sustainability comes out of ecology. A sustainable system is one with enduring balance where systems and functions are upheld without lessening the resources that feed those systems. From that definition comes our more current usage co-opted by the environmental and human development movement in 1987 and precisely defined by the United Nations: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

    The kitchen is a major entry and exit point of material goods within our buildings, and therefore, an obvious place to foster sustainability.
  • Q: Can I have a recipe?

    Maybe. Our chefs are very busy and work with large-scale recipes that often aren't scaled down in a manageable six-portion recipe. We can talk you through our techniques and ingredients and share a similar recipe if we don't have a recipe that would make sense for a home cook. We love to talk food. So please ask. We are looking to expand our database of sharable recipes in the future. 
  • Q: My child is a vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian. Will she have enough options to eat in the dinning hall?

    Yes! Our vegetarian/vegan food abounds. And, we scatter meatless days into our menu at least once a week. We feel it is important that our program is inclusive and thoughtful around dietary and cultural needs. Food is labeled, but if you have a question please ask.
  • Q: What is your tree nut policy?

    We are a nut-aware school. In the kitchen we never use nuts, and we do not purchase any products with nuts in them. We do use products that are processed in facilities that also process nuts. We use some seeds (sesame, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds) on occasion. We ask parents, students and teachers to send only nut-free foods to Spence. We take allergies very seriously. 
  • Q: What is Spence's composting initiative?

    The composting program at Spence is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Zero Waste Schools” vision of sustainability outlined in #OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just CityThe Spence School has participated in this NYC Department of Sanitation program since its inception in 2014. We compost up to 350 pounds of food scraps daily. 75% of those scraps come from food preparation.
    If you would like to learn more about the NYC Department of Sanitation composting program, please visit this website