For many Glen A. Wilson High School (GAWHS) students, lunch is often the favorite time of the day. The thirty-minute break allows students to stretch their legs, get sunlight, talk to friends and, most importantly, eat food. However, as it turns out, some students may not be receiving any lunch at all.
Since last year, as we slowly came out of the pandemic, students received lunch in the cafeteria, and unlike in elementary and middle school, entering in your lunch number was not required. But starting this year, the old system has made a comeback. As a result, many students have noticed the lunch lines growing longer.
Assistant principal Robert Hidalgo, who oversees the cafeteria, explains that the reason students now have to input their lunch numbers includes a number of factors.
“A lot of the funding that the districts receive also requires students to input their student ID [number]. Last year there was an exemption from the federal government and the state because of COVID, and they wanted to extend some legislation that allowed free lunches to be served without having to provide a lunch ID,” Hidalgo said.
This is important to note because California is the first state out of the nation to offer free lunches to all of its public school systems, starting with the 2022-2023 school year. Therefore, it makes sense that it will take some time for schools to figure out an effective solution to implement the program.
Hidalgo also pointed out, “It is also more typical at the beginning of the school year that there is a little more delay at the first month or so, before everyone starts to get a sense of how many students are accessing the lunch that is being offered. Staffing as well [is a factor], as we were a little short-staffed in the cafeteria.”
But that is not the only reason the lunch lines stretch so long. GAWHS cafeteria manager, Maritza Ventura, talks about how student conduct is also an issue.
“It depends on the food we are serving. If we have a new item on the line, it gets out of control; [students] want to cut the line, they want to get more than one [serving], but I believe it is because we do not have enough supervision outside of the lines, so sometimes we have to stop serving so they can understand it is two students per window, and they can only grab one lunch. So that is a challenge for us,” Ventura stated.
As someone who has seen a student walk away with three trays of french toast sticks from the lunch line, it is definitely no lie that the foods being served on different days can taste better than others. Because of this, many students are tempted to take more servings for themselves or their friends. In a more convenient setting, it would be nice if students could grab as much food as they wanted. However, they should also be mindful of the people behind them, who also likely have not eaten anything and are just as hungry as them.
Ventura also added what students could do to help.
“If we only have two students per line, it would be much easier if they remember their lunch ID. Instead of talking to their friends about what to grab for lunch, they should be ready to order, so the lines can go faster. Like this, lines go really fast, because with all these amounts of kids we are serving—about 800—we finish in like 12 to 15 minutes, so line times are going pretty good. It is only sometimes we have issues, but it is not every day.”
Lunch is one of the busiest times of the school day because so many students are rushing to get food, but they should at least make an effort to keep the line moving on their own.
On the other side of the lunch windows are the students of GAWHS. They share their own opinions on the lunch lines.
Junior Megan Soriano expresses that even though her fourth-period classroom is one of the closest to the lunch line, she still has trouble consistently getting lunch before the end-of-lunch bell rings.
“My fourth period is band, which is pretty close to the lunch line and usually makes it easy to get lunch fast. [But,] although it is close by, I still have trouble getting food quickly because of all the cutting in the line and just how slow it is in the first place. I feel bad for people on the other side of the school and cannot get a good spot in line.” Soriano said.
It is easy to tell that even more external factors, such as classroom placement and whether or not teachers decide to let students out on time also play a part in affecting if a student has a chance to receive lunch on that day. However, these are circumstances that students have no control over, so oftentimes it is luck that decides when students can receive lunch the easiest.
Another student, junior Taylor Zamora speaks on why it is so important for students to be getting food in the school lunch lines.
“My family does not have a lot of money nor time spent at home. I usually stay at my tia’s on a school day until seven and when I get home I do homework, clean, etc. The food in our fridge is more or less frozen foods or just heavy dinner items that we do not have a lot of time to easily prepare. Having to prepare a balanced lunch everyday is just not doable, especially if I have to make one for both of my younger brothers and myself on my own,” Zamora shared.
Zamora’s experiences are unfortunately not unique and can easily apply to a number of students across campus. In an era of students with increasingly difficult classes and equally busy schedules, it is often not realistic for some students to bring food from home. That is why it is so important for schools to have a reliable lunch distribution system to ensure that everyone is guaranteed lunch every day no matter what.
There are a variety of factors at play that determine the wait times of the lunch lines. But students should not have to gamble in order to determine whether or not they are fed for the day—that should be guaranteed. We are only in the beginning months of the school year and undoubtedly there is room for improvement on both sides.
Thank you to the cafeteria staff for serving the GAWHS students throughout the years, and I hope that in this school year, every student can get their lunch.