School Lunch Gets a New Look

The grand opening of the Beverly Cafe at Beverly Hills High School ushers in a new era of cafeteria food.

School lunch is no longer about tasteless hamburgers and soggy French fries—at least not at .

Wednesday marked the grand opening of the Beverly Cafe, the high school's new and improved cafeteria. Throngs of students lined up to choose from a variety of meal options, including salads, pizza, pasta, panini sandwiches, chicken wings and burritos. Side choices include fresh fruit and yogurt parfait as well as crisp sweet potato fries. Kosher food is also available.

"Going from good to great is not only about academics," said school board President Lisa Korbatov, who was on hand for the Beverly Cafe's ribbon-cutting. "It's also about taking pride in preparing and serving great food that our kids are excited to eat."

After years of lackluster participation in the Beverly Hills Unified School District's lunch program, the district has joined forces with Chartwells, a division of the Compass Group, the largest food service company in North America. BHUSD's with Chartwells is bringing high-quality lunch to the city's five public schools.

The price of a single meal tops out at $5.75 for high school students and $4.50 for the K-8 schools. The response thus far has been .

"What we're seeing here is what success looks like. It's a great collaboration between the public and private sector," Chartwells Vice President Travis Young said. "You see the success with the kids. It's not cafeteria food anymore. It's cafe food."

Before the district's lunch program was outsourced to Chartwells, about 110 people were purchasing lunch at BHHS on any given day. Now that number is closer to 550 a day. There is also a mobile cart that serves students who eat lunch on the high school's sprawling front lawn.

Senior Matin Mehdizadeh, 18, said his favorite option so far is the turkey and cheese panini.

"The Beverly Cafe has made great progress and is more of an attraction to kids at school for a good lunch," he said.

But it's not just the students who are lining up to eat school lunch.

"It's like real food," said Pete Van Rossum, a 10th grade history teacher. "The era of tater tots and pizza bagels is over."

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