The Lunch Crunch


Photo by Hannah Miller

PR students wait in line the get their lunch.

Palmer Ridge High School students have voiced displeasure over lines and limited food options this year. Some students have waited in long lines, only to find that their desired menu item is no longer available, or sold out. While the problem may seem new or worse this year, it has been a challenge that the district administration has had to face for over ten years. A high demand for snacks over traditional lunches this year, compounded by additional challenges, including an improper ratio of students to staff and a decrease in a la carte items served, have exacerbated the problem.

This year, principal Dr. Adam Frank and the administrative staff in the district are working harder than ever to keep the lunch process running as smoothly as possible. By separating the line into two separate areas, a la carte and traditional school lunch, and including the check out process at the end of each line, Dr. Frank mentioned that, already, “the line has moved faster than last year.”

Dr. Adam Frank during his interview about the lunch lines. Photo by Hannah Miller

Frank also said that he “has been very pleased with where we are this year,” regarding the lunch line situation, adding that he himself has not gotten any formal complaints about the matter, but has indeed heard students talking about the lengthiness of the lunch line.

“If there ever were to be a student that was at the end of the line, and were unable to eat, what I would recommend for them to do is to communicate,” said Frank. “Communication is huge. By walking up to any administrator and saying ‘Hey, I got my lunch late’ we can allow them to eat and write them a pass. We would not want a kid to not eat.”

In addition, the majority of the problem with the lunch lines comes with imbalance. Because a hefty portion of the student population prefers the a la carte items over the traditional school lunch, the school supply cannot simply keep up with the student demand.

Stacy Baker, Director of Nutritional Services for the district, understands the student’s desire for items such as the soft pretzels, garlic knots, and Bosco Sticks that are no longer being served this year at either high school.

“The decrease in items is simply to accommodate our staffing,” says Baker. “We are so understaffed that when we looked at the menu this year we had to basically start the year wondering what we can do with the staffing levels we have. Both high schools only have two employees per kitchen, and we need at least four to five to get back to the normal level of food.”

Upperclassman Lawson McVay (12), who regularly eats lunch provided by the school, has noticed the shortage of a la carte items, along with the interesting separation of the two lines by the theme park ropes.

“I think the ropes were an attempt at fixing the problem, but I do not think it was successful. I think it just changed the problem instead of solving it,” said McVay. “There are also less options for food. It makes me sad, because I miss the garlic knots and everything is really expensive, so sometimes I am still hungry.”

Lawson Mcvay (12) socializes while eating his school provided lunch. Photo by Hannah Miller

Even though the a la carte items are much more expensive than the traditional lunch offered, it seems that price is not a factor when it comes to popularity, nor is it the only form of food offered for students.

“About ninety percent of our sales are from the a la carte side, and ten percent is from the actual lunch side,” said Baker. “I think it is important to note that we always have lunches available. I think people are under the impression that if they do not get through the snack side then they do not get lunch, but we always have food available.”

While the Palmer Ridge student body continues to be upset over lunch, the only thing the administration has asked for is for a change of perspective. The situation is not necessarily a problem, but more of a challenge that the administration and students can work to overcome together. With this change of perspective, “the lunch crunch” can be improved through the actions that students take. While it may not be their first choice, students can choose a shorter line and get the more traditional school lunch, which saves time, money, and would reduce pressure on the snack line.

Palmer Ridge students purchase their snack items. Photo by Hannah Miller.

“I know it has been frustrating to not have things run like they have in the past, and there is nothing more that I want than to have it back to normal and be able to provide all of those options,” said Baker. “We work continuously. I think it is important for everyone to know that we really try to make good lunches and we try to bring in good products that the students like. That is our number one priority. You guys are our number one priority.”