One night last winter, more than 120 parents filed into the black-box theater at Avenues: The World School in Chelsea, to learn about what their kids were eating. Ever since the $85 million for-profit start-up opened its doors in September, food had been a divisive issue. After the first week of classes, a group of parents sent a seven-page e-mail detailing concerns: there were not enough snacks, not enough “worldly” snacks like seaweed, zucchini bread with quinoa flour and bean quesadillas (so long as the beans came from BPA-free tin cans). Unlike other New York City private schools, with their decades of institutional wisdom, Avenues was founded on the premise that its parents were partners in building a new community. So it was ready to hear them out.
In the black-box theater, Avenues’ chief administrative officer helped assure parents that their kids’ diet was sufficiently organic, local and healthful. The regional director of its food-service contractor was on hand to address any fears about carbohydrates. A doctor from Mount Sinai Hospital was ready to answer questions about allergies. A 25-page PowerPoint was presented.
Everything in the black-box theater, like the Sol LeWitt line drawing on the wall, was researched and intentionally chosen, just like all the other details at the school. That was why many of the assembled parents applied in the first place.