Lunch made with love

Knights Eatery at Hamilton District Christian School

When Evelyn Hielema arrives at the school at 8:45, she is already at her second job of the day. After driving our students safely from Jarvis to Hamilton on the school bus, she prepares for a busy day at the Knights Eatery.

School food will never taste the same
Knights Eatery, the newly branded school cafeteria, has stepped up to the lunch plate, bringing more healthy foods to our growing students. This movement, led by Mrs. Hielema and with the support of interested staff, makes it clear that Hamilton District Christian School food will never taste the same again.

Evelyn is passionate about the evolution of the cafeteria, promoting a healthier attitude toward traditional cafeteria food. Once considered a “tuck shop,” the Knights Eatery now serves between 75 – 150 meals a day offering the closest thing to home-cooked meals outside of the students’ home kitchens.

Daily specials
To encourage students to come back regularly, Knights Eatery features different specials each day. Some items are so popular that students will find them every day, but Evelyn works hard to provide a delicious variety. It’s a joy when students and staff are excited about what’s on the menu for the week and ask me to make something again soon!”

It’s a joy when students and staff are excited about what’s on the menu for the week and ask me to make something again soon!”

Evelyn explains that it is an ongoing challenge to stay current with what students and staff are excited about eating; there can be a big difference in taste buds from one year to the next. Using fresh ingredients (and a little love), Evelyn continually adds new and exciting items to the menu. “Sometimes I have requests from staff and students and I will try it out if I feel it will work.” Occasional student surveys also help with ideas about what they would like to see on the menu. An example of a recently-added menu item is the lunch-sized Chicken Parmesan.  Evelyn strives to keep food prices affordable without compromising on quality or taste.

Evelyn understands that the students who are very busy or who live more independently sometimes treat lunch as their main meal

Fresh additions
The recent addition of a refrigerated salad bar allows students to make their own salads, pitas, and wraps. Fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits are now available for quick snacks and there is a daily hot soup.  Evelyn makes a conscious effort to serve fewer items with buns/bread and to add more fruit and vegetables to the menu. She regularly offers daily healthy lunchtime suggestions in the morning announcements and notes that today’s students are more open to healthier options than when she first started.

“I would say some tastes never change. Kids still love french fries, pizza, and cookies, but I don’t serve fries often and we make the pizza fresh every day so we can put on our own healthy toppings. We also have a vegetable garden, which the cafeteria hopes to benefit from.”

Evelyn enjoys the open door feeling in the cafeteria.  “It’s very special when students come in just to chat.” About eight part-time student staff help her to keep the kitchen running smoothly and she comments that “It’s rewarding to watch the students working in the cafeteria gain some great skills.”

When not at school, Evelyn likes spending time with her children, grandchildren, and friends. She plays a little golf, enjoys relaxing with a good book and attends a Women’s Bible Study. She loves touring the countryside with her husband on their motorcycle.

Evelyn tells me that she looks forward to the surprises and excitement of each day.  “Going forward, with my student staff, we’ll do our best to make the cafeteria a welcoming place for our students, staff, and guests. We have an awesome atmosphere here where Christ is centre. We are all connected and encouraged to use our gifts. It’s a lot of fun at Hamilton District Christian School!”

Evelyn finishes up her day in the cafeteria by cleaning up, planning menus and work schedules, ordering food, and taking care of anything else that needs attention. Then at 3:00pm, it’s back on the school bus for the ride home.

ASprogisAdrianne Sprogis
Communications Specialist
Hamilton District Christian High