The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

Is the Cafeteria Free Food Worth it?

March 23, 2021

Lunch time is most students’ favorite time of the day. They get to take a break from learning and spend some time with their friends while enjoying something nearly all teens love: food. Most people get excited when they are offered things for free, especially when it is free food, so the word that this year, FCHS would offer its students free breakfast and lunch to help accommodate with the financial struggles associated with Covid-19 was a welcome thought.

After all, while school cafeteria food is nobody’s favorite meal, when it comes for free, can students really be that picky?

Free lunch this year includes one option for the main meal, a choice of white or chocolate milk, one side, a fruit, and a vegetable. The menu items vary from day to day, but what is served is what you get, with no real selection. It wasn’t always this way at FCHS. Before Covid, students were given various options to choose from for their lunch. Most students had to pay for these lunches, excluding those who met the free lunch requirements.

Before the pandemic, students had the option to buy a salad most days for their lunch, but now students are only offered a salad on the days salads are served. FCHS sophomore Robert Smith wishes that the cafeteria offered more fruit and vegetables to accommodate those with more specific diets. ¨The cafeteria needs to offer more vegetarian and vegan options such as plant based items like salads, ´Beyond Burgers´ and plant-based chicken,” he said.

The way that lunches and breakfasts are distributed now is also very different from previous years. In the past, students would walk through the lunch line while the cafeteria workers offered different options to the students. The students would tell the workers what they would like to eat, then they would put it on a tray and go eat their lunch.

Now, students walk through the lunch line and are handed plastic bags filled with their lunch to help reduce worker-student food contact. Each food item in the bag is individually bagged or in a styrofoam or plastic container along with condiments, plastic utensils, and napkins.

You may be asking, “How is the school system able to afford to feed the vast majority of the school for free?” Gwendolyn Jones would normally operate the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) at FCHS, but this year her job is a little different. ¨Under both the SBP and the NSLP, I am [normally] allowed to charge students for meals that do not qualify for free or reduced meals. Due to the pandemic, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is allowing me to operate a different program this year. I am operating the Summer Food Service Program for the 20-21 school year. This program allows me to serve all children 18 and under at no charge,¨ said Jones.

Most cafeteria food is a far cry from top cuisine, but some students feel as though the school provides a filling and nutritional lunch. ¨Sometimes the school lunch tastes a little old, but I think the school did a great job with making sure everyone eats plenty of good food. It is definitely worth eating if packing a lunch is not a resource for you,¨ said sophomore Faith Shields.

Senior Allyson Crothers agrees that the food the school provides is worth eating at times. ¨I know they’re trying their best with what they have, so I can’t complain too much,” she said.

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About the Contributor
Photo of Bethany Cheripka
Bethany Cheripka, FCHS Journalist

Bethany is a junior in her second year of journalism and is editor of The Fluco Beat. She enjoys painting and spending time with friends. She has a border...

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