New year brings new lunch structure
Admin balances lunch population, food service updates distribution technique
NOTE: This piece was published in Vol. 99, Issue 1 of The Booster Redux on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Click here to view the issue.
Throughout her sophomore year, eating the entirety of her food before the end of her lunch period became an issue for junior Kinsey Marshall.
“The lines were really long,” Marshall said. “Either I didn’t eat or I waited [to eat] until the very last second because I didn’t like waiting in such long lines.”
As an effect of overcrowding, not only did Marshall sacrifice eating her food and gaining the proper nutrients for her day, but she also sacrificed something important to herself: finding an area to sit in the vicinity of her closest friends.
“I eventually gave up on even trying to find seats. Instead, I sat outside,” Marshall said.
Part of Marshall’s struggles stemmed from the inconsistency and imbalance of lunch lines. While first and third lunch periods had a population of over 300 students, second lunch period had a smaller population of 128 students.
“Because of the large amount of [students] in our school, lunch periods were split up and uneven,” Marshall said.
However, Marshall is not the only student who was influenced by uneven lunch lines.
“Because of the long lunch lines everyday, I barely had enough time to eat,” sophomore Bailey Manning said.
After witnessing the issues presented by overcrowding in the cafeteria, principal Jon Bishop knew changes would have to be made in order to create a better lunch experience for students.
“Our main goal is to make sure that we have a simpler serving period without the problem of long lines,” Bishop said. “We also want to provide plenty of space for [students] to sit.”
Thus, administration decided that the first way to equalize the quantity of students in each lunch line was to assign more students to second lunch.
Students are assigned to lunch periods based on the teacher they have before the beginning of each lunch period. To equalize the amount of students in second lunch, administration increased the amount of teachers teaching classes before the start of second lunch.
“We just added more teachers to even out the population,” Bishop said.
Automatically, this increased the population of second lunch. Now, each lunch period consists of over 200 students.
The new and evenly distributed lunch population positively impacted junior Ashley Henderson.
“The lunches are much more evened out in terms of number of classes assigned to each lunch hour this year,” Henderson said. “I feel less pressed for time and that seating availability has improved.”
Although she believes the lunch population continues to cause crowding, senior Kristen Geiger has also noticed a positive change.
“In the past, the cafeteria has always been overcrowded,” Geiger said. “Now, there are still a lot of people, but it’s not as bad because the lunches are evenly distributed between teachers.”
Nevertheless, consistent lunch populations do not give consistent and steady class time to students assigned to second lunch. Students are in class for 23 minutes before the class is interrupted by second lunch. After second lunch, students go back to the same class for another 30 minutes.
Bishop believes this interruption is something that could not have been avoided.
“Due to our large population, a lunch period is going to have to be interrupted at some point,” Bishop said. “It’s just the way it’s going to have to be.”
According to Bishop, there are still ways to work around this constraint.
“If there is a math test, we are fine with students taking first or third lunch so they can have a full class period to finish that test,” Bishop said.
While administration made revisions to the lunch population, the cafeteria staff also made revisions to the structure of lunch lines.
Previously, students waited in one line to receive their food. Now, in order to reduce the length and waiting time of lunch lines, the cafeteria staff uses two lines.
On the first line, students choose either a hamburger or a main entree. On the second line, students choose between four flavors of pizza: four-meat, four-cheese, pepperoni, and buffalo chicken.
“Students can go to either line,” director of food services Terri Feagan said. “We want to increase the options so that more students can eat.”
According to Feagan, over 900 students attend the high school. Approximately 500 students purchase school lunch, as opposed to approximately 400 in previous year. Feagan hopes to increase this number even more.
“Getting our lunch count up financially helps the district pay bills and provide for certain expenses,” Feagan said.
However, aside from the financial benefits of a higher lunch population, Feagan believes it is a priority for kids to be provided a meal on a daily basis.
“I don’t know if students are bringing their sack lunches, eating out of the vending machines, or skipping lunch entirely,” Feagan said. “We want them to come into our kitchen and eat.”
Furthermore, the kitchen staff also revised the ala carte, which provides snacks such as cookies and chips. Students are required to pay for items on the ala carte with money outside of their student account.
Rather than having a separate line for it, the ala carte is now a part of the lunch line.
Sophomore Monica Coronado sees the benefits and disadvantages to this revision.
“I don’t like the fact that the ala carte has less options this year,” Coronado said. “However, I still like the items on it and I buy things from it everyday.”
According to Feagan, there will be more items added to the ala carte.
“We are going to try to have more of ala carte items,” Feagan said. “The way it is now is not the way it will be midway through the school year.”
The cafeteria staff plans on traveling to different schools in order to share and discover new ideas for the ala carte and the structure of lunch.
“We’re going to Chanute to see how they organize different sections of their lunch,” Feagan said. “For example, we got the idea of the second-chance breakfast from Fort Scott Senior High School. Different schools share their ideas.”
However, regardless of all of the revisions made to lunch, cafeteria space is still a constraint.
“Our kitchen is set up in a way where it’s hard to open it up,” Feagan said. “It’s like we’re trapped.”
According to Bishop, the cafeteria is designed to accommodate populations of approximately 150 students per lunch period. This is a lower number than the current lunch populations of over 200 students per period.
“Even though we have enough tables and chairs, we’re still crowded,” Bishop said. “We want a more open space for our students.”
Regardless of the status quo and current constraints, Feagan believes that the top priority is to provide the best lunch experience possible for all students.
“We will do anything we can,” Feagan said. “We want to do what’s best for the students.”