Boarding Food: How Far We Have Come!

A Huge Shift

The evolution of boarding school dining has been nothing short of extraordinary, representing a huge shift in not only the quality and variety of meals but also in the overall dining experience for boarding students. Gone are the days when students resigned themselves to uninspired, cafeteria-style fare. Instead, modern boarding schools like Santa Maria College have reimagined dining as an integral part of student life, emphasising not just sustenance, but also enjoyment, health, and community.

In the past, boarding school meals were often characterised by their blandness and uniformity. Students faced a repetitive cycle of institutional-style dishes, lacking in both flavour and nutritional value. The emphasis was on efficiency rather than quality, with little consideration given to individual tastes or dietary needs. For many students, mealtimes were a mundane affair, marked by a sense of obligation rather than anticipation.

Alumni Feedback

During research for this blog, we reached out to our alumni through Facebook to ask what their memories of boarding food were like, sharing some photos of food our current boarders have been served this week. The comments were overwhelming, telling us that they never had food like that. One person stated that it looked like restaurant-quality food.

Chelsea said “Not quite that good from memory, but I will always miss the days of not having to cook your own food and having a selection!”

Marcella commented that she could no longer stand paprika. “I’m off paprika for life after boarding school. The smell reminds me of the dining room.” 

Cathy said, “Toast was a food group of its own. It took me years to eat meatloaf again, and I still can’t touch sago.”

Christine, who has a very special connection to the College, her aunt is former principal, Sister Sheila Sawle, praised the changes to food choices for today’s boarders. “It’s great to see a fresh, healthy, vast array of highly nutritious choices for you all to savour. A profound, exciting observation that Santa Maria embraces as one of the many hallmarks of nurturing young women – body, mind, spirit, and emotional wellbeing of the whole person. Kudos to Santa Maria and to each and every person responsible for keeping this standard so high”

Culinary Innovation

Thankfully, change has now swept through boarding school dining rooms, bringing an era of culinary innovation and student-centred menus. At Santa Maria, the commitment to providing wholesome, diverse, and appealing meals is evident in every dish served. The days of limited choices and obligatory consumption are long gone, replaced by a tasty array of options crafted with care and attention to detail.

Central to this is the role of our dedicated catering team. Comprised of experienced professionals who are passionate about food and nutrition, this team works tirelessly to ensure that every meal meets the highest standards of quality and freshness. They are aware that this food won’t beat mum’s home cooking, but they are determined to provide wholesome, tasty food. From sourcing locally grown produce to incorporating student feedback into menu planning, their dedication to excellence is unwavering.

Dining Experience

But it’s not just about the food itself; it is also about the dining experience. Themed dinners have become a special tradition at Santa Maria, providing students with an opportunity to explore different culinary cultures and traditions. Whether it’s a Valentine’s Day feast or a lively St Patrick’s Day celebration, these themed dinners add an extra layer of excitement and camaraderie to mealtimes, fostering a sense of community and belonging among students.

We asked a couple of our current boarders about their favourite foods on the menu. Year 8 student Isabel said she loves butter chicken, while Year 7 student Alivia likes themed dinner nights, but her favourite is Pizza Night. She excitedly added, “We get chips, too”. 

Hopefully, the days of no longer being able to eat certain foods after time in boarding are gone for good, replaced with fond memories of varied menus and great experiences.

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