HBA Overhauls Campus Food

Junior Regan Nishimura enjoys the new lunch items on the Flik menu. Here, she holds up baked chicken tenders with "revved up" barbecue sauce, along with garlic roasted broccoli.

On January 7, HBA students were introduced to a new food service company on campus, Flik.

According to HBA president Ron Shiira, the school has been looking into making changes to its food services for the past few years. Along with school administrators, Shiira made the decision to switch from Sodexo to Flik after receiving contract bids from both companies and visiting Flik’s operations at Kamehameha Schools’ Kapalama campus. Shiira said, “It was about which company who I believed could [offer] the best service to us.”

Flik is a relatively new food service company in Oahu, and HBA is only the second private high school that they’re working with on the island. Shiira believes that working with Flik at this early stage in their growth in Hawaii will be beneficial to HBA, and stated that the school’s proximity to Flix’s operations at Kamehameha’s Kapalama Campus helps reduce the cost of their services at HBA.

Students have seen lots of changes with Flik’s arrival. The menu has new items like sandwiches and local mocos for breakfast. The cafeteria now offers soup and “Grab-&-Go” items (like herb-roasted turkey sandwiches and somen salad) for lunch. Lunch entrées so far have included beef tacos with cumin roasted zucchinis, chicken wings with furikake fries, and beef bourguignon with roasted cauliflower.

Another change is the closure of the snack bar during lunch, where students used to buy popular items like fries and fried chicken fingers. Christa Collins, District Manager for Flik, explains that the change has partly to do with offering healthier options during the school day. She said, “Nutritionally, what we’re able to make fresh for you in the dining room is far better for your brain power in the afternoon than it is to eat fried food or things that will slow you down.” Collins also said that it is better to have everyone go through the cafeteria because they haven’t filled all their staffing positions yet. However, the snack bar is now open after school till 3:15 pm and many students have welcomed this change. Senior Jazerine Nakamura said, “Sometimes [students] get hungry after school, so it’s a good idea to be able to … have food after school while they’re waiting for their parents.”

There have also been some changes to the cost of food. While food prices at the elementary campus have stayed the same, a lunch entrée for high and middle school students now cost $6, up from about $5.50. According to Shiira, while the ticket price might be higher, students are getting more food as entrées are now served on a plate rather than a bowl, and a drink—POG, milk or fruit-infused water—is included. “My understanding is that [the lunches and prices are] pretty comparable…We feel that overall it will be better to our families,” he said. Collins points out that there is now a wider selection of food, with items costing as little as $1.

A surprising and unpopular change for many students at the start of Flik’s services was the policy to charge for disposable utensils. However, a decision has since been made to make them available for free. Shiira said that the original decision had to do with reducing costs. He explained that giving out free utensils increases the cost for Flik. “If Flik is not profitable, then [giving out free utensils] could then translate to higher tuition costs,” he said.

According to Flik’s website, the company believes in sourcing food locally as much as possible. The menu at HBA has featured breadfruit (or ulu) and poi, and Collins is quick to point out that Flik’s chefs cook their food from scratch. She explained that canned products like pre-made marinara sauce often contain additives and stabilizers that aren’t good for consumers. She added that there are no pesticides in the ingredients that they use and all items are non-GMO foods. “We want to be able to give you the best nourishment that we can so that you have good brain power and body power for your sports and retain information [during school],” she said.

With Flik in operation for a month, many students report that the lunches have improved from last year. With the closure of the snack bar counter during lunch, long lines were initially an issue. But it seems things have settled; students now know to skip the line if they are just picking up soup or “Grab-&-Go” items. Senior Alexis Nakabayashi appreciates how there are more vegetarian options and alternatives like soup to the lunch entreé. Junior Regan Nishimura also thinks the food quality has improved. She noticed that the food tastes fresher since they are cooked from scratch. Nishimura’s favorite lunch so far is the Hawaiian plate, which includes kalua pig and cabbage, chicken long rice, poi, and lomi salmon. She also enjoys the breakfast that Flik serves and the amount of food given for the price.

With this new partnership, Shiira and Collins are planning on future events like taste tests, visits from guest chefs, and a recipe contest. Shiira said that there are plans to hold a school-wide recipe contest in search of HBA’s signature dessert. There might also be taste tests during the annual HBA Fun Fair. As for guest chefs, Shiira hopes to bring back successful alumni chefs next year to have them design the menu for the day.

On the Kamehameha campus, Collins has brought in guest chefs like Lee Anne Wong and Russell Siu. “They design the menus, give the recipes to our teams, and we make the recipes, and they come in and do the finishing touches,” she said. Collins also wants to expand student’s palettes through tastings and introducing new ingredients on the menu. She invites students to check out Flik’s HBA website and to leave comments and suggestions. She also offered to take suggestions for smoothie flavors.

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