Manhattan Country School will continue MCS En Casa, our distance learning program, for the remainder of the school year.
6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

Family Style Lunch in the Classroom

Family Style Lunch in the Classroom

Sunday, September 29, 2019

MCS Food Program

The MCS Food Program supports the school’s core mission and values and provides our growing community of students and staff with delicious, nutritious meals each day. Since its inception in 1966, MCS has served lunch to students in the classroom to be enjoyed “family style” at small tables that the children set themselves.

Sharing a communal meal is a unifying experience that allows for conversations about everything from the impacts of food waste to the risks and rewards of trying new things. This tradition is an important reflection of the school’s mission to create a community of children and adults working together and enjoying each other’s company throughout the day.

The MCS Food Program works to ensure that each day’s meal is made from locally sourced, sustainably raised foods, most of which Head Chef Emilie Esders and the rest of the kitchen staff prepare from scratch. Most of our produce, dairy, eggs and meat come from the tri-state area, and our flour, rice and dried beans are from no farther away than New England. We carefully source the poultry from nearby family-run farms, and all of the pork and most of the ground beef we serve comes from the MCS Farm. In addition to preparing our menus from scratch as often as possible, we strive to minimize processed, packaged foods, and limit foods produced by companies with policies and practices that are not in line with MCS’s mission and values. 

Morning Snack

A light snack is served mid-morning to help students make it from breakfast to lunch. Snack offerings include things like fresh fruit, crackers, homemade baked goods, popcorn, cheddar cheese, cider, regular milk and chocolate milk. Students in the seventh and eighth grades receive a slightly heartier snack such as eggs, French toast, or bagels and cream cheese.


Lunch is served family-style in the classroom Monday through Thursday and includes a protein, a carbohydrate, cooked and fresh vegetables and fresh fruit, as well as 2% milk from a local dairy. We typically have one day without meat on the menu and no more than one day per week with beef or pork as the protein. 

Students are expected to join in the lunch prepared by the kitchen each day. Lunch is an important time of the day when students’ sense of community is enhanced by sharing the same meal and taking the time to forge relationships with peers. In the Lower School, while children learn to enjoy sharing a meal with their classmates they practice skills such as passing, pouring and cutting.


Each week’s menu is published in Nuestra Semana en MCS and is available on the MCS website. It is also communicated by email to faculty and staff.  

Each day’s menu, along with a comprehensive list of ingredients, is distributed on the lunch cart sent to each classroom to help teachers and lunch monitors manage dietary restrictions, especially allergies. The menu lists every ingredient, with major allergens for a particular item noted in parentheses.  Here's a sample menu listing:

Chicken Tenders (Gluten, Soy, Eggs & Dairy)
Baked Tofu (Soy)
Corn on the Cob
Fresh Vegetables
Fresh Fruit

For questions about the menu or requests for recipes, please email Head Chef Emilie Esders or call her at 212-348-0952, ext. 215.

On Fridays students bring lunch from home and families are encouraged to support our sustainability mission by packing food in reusable containers and minimizing packaged, processed foods. Sodas, caffeinated beverages and candy are prohibited and we ask that families refrain from sending food in glass containers for safety reasons.

Dietary Concerns

In general, MCS students are expected to participate in the family-style lunch provided by the Food Program each day. We encourage parents of children with a food allergy or restriction documented in Magnus to review the upcoming week’s menu and send in an alternative to the specific menu item (for instance, gluten-free pasta on a day when pasta is on the menu) so their child can participate in the day's lunch along with their peers.  

While it is not possible for us to accommodate every dietary restriction in our community, MCS is a nut free school, and families are asked to be careful not to send in foods that contains nuts. This includes afterschool and foods for classroom celebrations like birthdays, which should include a list of all the ingredients.

We also offer a vegetarian option, such as tofu, hard boiled eggs or beans, on days when animal protein is served for our students who are vegetarian or do not eat certain meats for religious reasons. 

Please indicate any dietary restrictions, allergies or intolerances on Magnus Health and notify your child’s teacher if you have questions about your child’s diet as it pertains to food served at school. Most often, teachers will then direct families to make an appointment with the school nurse, Stephanie Bloom, to discuss their child’s dietary needs. If a child’s medical history indicates the need for an alternative plan for snack and lunch, a doctor’s note should be on file in our nurse’s office. Stephanie can be reached by phone at 212-348-0952, ext. 292 or via email.