New Perspective on School LunchesWednesday, February 01, 2012 By Maria McDonald
Over the course of the school year, innumerable complaints about the quality and variety of school lunches have flown from the mouths of students and teachers to the ears of editors within The Spotlight staff. Consequently, articles concerning school lunches have been published, reflecting a generally negative point of view of some of the culinary options available. Although, in my experience, the food has not always been completely sub-par, I tended to agree with the cafeteria complaints. However, the change of semesters brought a change of perspective in regard to cafeteria food. It turns out, the quality of the lunches isn’t the true problem (at least not always); it’s the quantity of good food available. How, you may ask, did I come upon this discovery? As previously mentioned, the answer lies in the change of semesters. The first half of the year, I had Sports Medicine the period before lunch seven. The classroom was a decent distance from the cafeteria, and I stopped for a locker break on my way as well. Therefore, I did not arrive to lunch promptly, but still made it in time to walk in with most of the herd heading towards the cafeteria. However, by the time I walked in, pickings were slim and lines for anything somewhat healthy were outrageous. Keep in mind that I was not even among the last students to arrive to the cafeteria; this occurred after a mere fifty or so students had cleared out the food options. Thus, out of the several hundred in lunch seven, these premiere fifty are the only ones fortunate enough to get acceptable lunches. In fact, I was not even aware of the variety of healthy and yummy lunch options available to students until the change of semester. I just assumed that the reheated pizza and limited parfaits were all the school had to offer for our midday meal. Then I found myself in the gym the period before lunch, just steps away from the cafeteria. These past few weeks, I have had the best lunches I’ve ever received at school, and actually feel like I’m eating something nutritious. I am able to walk in the cafeteria, feeling like one of the premiere lunch students, get a wrap from the sandwich bar in a reasonable amount of time, with a parfait and milk, and make it back to my lunch table in time to actually eat. Before this, I would barely have time to sit down at lunch, because the lines for anything healthy were enormous, and nearly all a la carte items had been taken. I was actually shocked to see how many options our school had to offer for lunch that I had never been exposed to. However, I noticed the limited quantities of each healthy option. Now I can pick whatever I want for lunch because I am among a small percentage of people to arrive early to the cafeteria, but what about the first half of my year? What about the students that will have Mr. Ruch all year the period before lunch, and have to walk from one end of the building to the other to make it to the cafeteria? They will never have the variety of healthy choices available to them. It is even worse for those in lunch nine, who not only have to deal with the distance from the cafeteria, but the lack of selections left for them by the end of the day. Not only are selections poor, but what remains may be cold, soggy or reheated. Not so yummy. In addition to worrying about the food choices, students must find a way to juggle locker and bathroom breaks during this “free” time. Students are encouraged to go to their lockers and the bathroom before lunch, as to not waste class time, but if they do so, they arrive considerably later to the cafeteria, thus limiting or eliminating healthy foods to them. In my opinion, a student should not have to worry about missing the healthy options provided by the school lunches. Therefore, the quantity or production of these options should increase. For example, the wildly popular sandwich bar could be made more efficient by adding staff to the section to cut lines, or even providing two areas for the sandwich making. This could be where the less healthy reheated pizza is served, and the pizza could be moved to a smaller area in the cafeteria. Thus, students can get a nutritious sandwich for a reasonable price and in a shorter amount of time. Other solutions to this conflict can be found by simply increasing the number of healthy a la carte options. If this occurs, a student’s proximity to the cafeteria or late lunch schedule will not affect the nutrition of his or her meal.