By Moriah Seymann (’19)

This year, SDJA introduced a new lunch program and students are ravenous for the fresh and flavorful dishes. New chef Giselle Wellman has replaced cold spaghetti and cheese pizza with eggplant and zucchini fritters. “It’s really healthy,” Jessie Gan (‘21) says, “She uses a lot of eggplant, but she cooks it super nicely.”

Last year, SDJA served the typical school lunch, which was nothing fancy. Students were ready for a change.“The food was kind of gross,” says Tikva Velazquez (‘19). “Sometimes the pasta wasn’t even cooked all the way.”

Giselle Wellman uses her vast amount of cooking experience to spice up SDJA’s hot lunch recipes. Prior to her job at SDJA, she cooked with Jean Georges, Thomas Keller, and Mario Batali, some of the best chefs in the world. Recently, she appeared on the competition show, Top Chef.

Giselle-Headshot-1 (1)
Giselle Wellman ready to cook in her new kitchen. Photo: San Diego Jewish Academy

After 15 years in the restaurant business, Giselle Wellman was as ready for change as the students are. Shocked to learn that 40% of the produce in America goes straight into the landfill, she made sustainability a top priority. “I needed to do something more than just run a restaurant,” says Wellman. “My passion in my career shifted and now I am so excited to be in a place where I can influence young minds to make better choices. I hope to not only incorporate local sustainable produce into our hot lunch program but create an alliance between traditional education and sustainability.”

The Anatomy and Physiology Class recently watched the Netflix documentary Fed Up, which shows that child obesity often results from poor quality school lunches. Some children have no choice but to eat unhealthy food every single day. One student, Dalia Benson (19’) says, “It was eye-opening to see how many young students in America are obese or dying from diabetes due to unhealthy school lunches.”

Unhealthy eating not only disrupts children’s day-to-day lives in general, but also their education. “Children are better equipped to both function and learn if good nutrition is part of their day,” says Giselle Wellman. “A significant number of studies show that children who eat a nutritious meal every day learn better, behave better, and perform better in class than children who struggle with hunger and are malnourished.”

Luckily, SDJA students will not have this problem.“School meals not only have the potential to affect a student’s lifelong eating habits but also to have an immediate impact on their health, day-to-day,” says Wellman. “Because of this, it is my very important obligation to our students to make sure the food is healthy and fresh.”

Students taste the difference. The food’s quality exceeds any hot lunch SDJA students have tasted before. “The quality of the food is way better.” says Seth Novom (19’), “The chef actually wants to serve us good food.”

To Giselle Wellman, quality is everything. “What is unique, is that we are sourcing local organic produce for hot lunch consumption,” says Wellman. “My goal is that this becomes less unique and more standard for other schools across the board.”

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