Hungry Students Want Longer Lunch Periods

Madison Harressey, Staff Writer

It’s 10:46am and the first group of students are dismissed from their third block and head to lunch. During each of the four lunch periods, nearly 800 students rush to their assigned lunch room and hope they will get their food and find a seat with just barely enough time to finish it before the bell rings in 22 minutes. 

School lunch programs have become a widely debated topic across the country, from the quality of food to the regularly short time allotted for school lunch periods. Some public schools serve processed foods while others have their own garden or catering service. Public school lunch periods in America range anywhere from ten to sixty minutes. While the government recommends a minimum of twenty minutes, nutrition experts do not believe that is enough time for students to properly eat and digest before their next class. 

While Pinkerton Academy continues to expand class offerings and adopt best instructional practice, the lunch program remains the same as it has been for years, even with the increase of student enrollment. Each lunch period is only twenty two minutes long. Those precious minutes often get cut almost in half with the time it takes students to get to their lunch room, wait in line and then sit down with their food. The limited time often creates a major waste of food as students are unable to finish their meal before lunch is over. 

“I think that thirty minutes for lunch would be a great time,” said junior Ella Ballou, “because it would be enough time to get to lunch, get you food and not have to rush and eat.” 

In accordance with the USDA guidelines, the school needs to serve specific food groups. The main supplier for the lunch food is Performance Food Group.  However, a lot of students are not happy with the quality of food being served, especially those with special dietary needs. 

“No, I wouldn’t say so,” said Bella Petrallia, on how accessible the lunches are to those with different dietary needs or restrictions. “They have salad but not very specific [to different diets].” 

Around the country, public school lunch programs are vastly different. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a bill that grants federal funding for public school lunches was passed in 2010. The bill was created in hopes of incentivising public schools to serve better quality lunches, and while most schools participate, the quality of school lunches has remained vastly different depending on the school. Some schools, such as the South Euclid Lyndhurst School Districts, have partnered with farms within the state of Ohio for a farm-to-table lunch, serving more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed and preservative filled foods. 

In my discussion with the Head of Food services Sue Gerges, I asked about the future of lunches and the possibility of Pinkerton adopting a farm-to-school lunch program. 

“Probably in the future. Once things settle,” Gerges said. “Once hospitality makes a rebound. I think we’ll be pretty good.” 

As of right now because of the staffing shortage in the hospitality industry, Gerges expressed that any changes will have to wait until the industry makes a comeback. 

 Although there are currently no major changes in the works for  the lunch program, it is continuing to recover from the stress of the pandemic. As the school year returns to normal after two years of COVID precautions and listening to student feedback, changes to the program will be considered. 

“We’re just trying to get it back. Before Covid we started delis, we have to do it piece by piece because we’re still shorthanded,” said Gerges, ” so we’re doing it in little small increments, that’s how we’re bringing it back.”