Cheryn Hong and Grace Krsul-Sullivan spend a lot of time in the new Simply Puur Café at Cranbook Schools in Bloomfield Hills.
They have good reason. At the café they can get smoothies, coffee, homemade baked goods, organic items, and other snacks – even sushi. The clean concept school café, which mirrors an on-campus restaurant and is the first in Michigan, was created to offer students fresh, all natural, healthy and trendy foods.
“We wanted to create an environment where the students want to be but where they have healthy, well-rounded food choices,” says Allison Mitchell, resident district manager, school dining services at Chartwells K12, the school’s food service provider.
To create that environment Sharon Peacock, Upper School dean of girls at Cranbrook, gave students a voice. She put together a committee of students, faculty and others to get their ideas. They surveyed the kids to find out what foods they ate outside of school to help set up the menu.
“We wanted a space the kids could feel was their own,” she says.
Hong, from South Korea, and Krsul-Sullivan, from Bridgman, Michigan, have made it their own. Both young women are 10th graders and boarders at Cranbrook. They want to eat healthy, but that can be hard when they’re away at school.
“It is hard to maintain a healthy diet at school,” says Krsul-Sullivan, who says the fresh foods offered at the brightly colored café help her eat right.
Don’t think for a minute these young women don’t have a sweet tooth or that the Simply Puur Café doesn’t cater to that yen for sweets. There are cookies, cupcakes and more to choose from created by chef Diana Olarte, who trained in Melbourne, Australia.
“They are all made from scratch on site,” says Mitchell.
About 300 students stop by daily and consume an average of 70 smoothies, 162 clean-label fresh baked goods and more.
All the food offered at the café is grown locally. Much of it comes from Coastal in Eastern Market. Fruits are bought during the season and frozen for smoothies. The cups for the smoothies are green, purchased from Michigan Greensafe.
“It’s a place to go to get us out of our dorm rooms and get together,” Hong says. “I sometimes do my homework there.”
There are long-term benefits as well. Studies show college freshman often gain around 15 pounds due to snacking, less physical activity and eating in dining halls with unlimited food choices, both healthy and not-so-healthy.
Hong and Krsul-Sullivan say learning to eat healthy now will help them eat healthy in college and avoid that weight gain.
“I will be in the habit of getting good food in my body rather than junk food,” Hong says. That, she says, will help keep her brain healthy as well.
The café, located in the Kingswood building, also creates good social environment. It is packed with kids chatting, studying, checking iPhones and just have good, old-fashion fun. It also encourages diversity. While Cranbrook is already ethnically and nationality diverse, the café brings artists, musicians and others together.
That trendy café is also keeping the kids on campus more. Before, they often trekked into Birmingham for food – a costly expedition.
“One thing we looked at when creating the cafe was why kids leave campus,” says Mitchell. “Simply Puur was a concept that would make them stay.”
The students also get nutritious foods in the dining room. There are multiple offerings such as salmon, shrimp and other good-for-you foods. The café in the Kingswood Building offers healthy foods throughout the day.
Simply Puur Cafe’s location that building is pretty special. Kingswood is one of two Upper School buildings on the Cranbrook campus and was originally built as a girls school. In the 1980s, the upper schools merged and became coed. The dorms remain separate.
The Kingswood building was designed in 1930s by Eliel Saarinen and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. That distinction was taken into consideration when designing the café. Its historic architecture has been preserved.
The café space has had many uses. It served as domestic science space followed by a Middle School science room as well as the Upper School art gallery.
“We are merging the past with the present,” Peacock says. “So far the feedback from parents is excellent.”
While there are no current plans to put other Simply Puur cafés on campus, it could happen if this one continues to be a success.