by Cadence Gutman, staff writer

NOVEMBER 2021 – An announcement discussing the issues and change within the school lunch system was sent out on Sept. 29th, 2021, by Lindsey Mclaughlin, Chief Operating Officer and Principal of grades 10 through 12. When grades seven and eight joined the Rootstown Bio-Med Science Academy Campus, the number of people on campus needed to be accommodated. However, the cafeteria struggled with making enough lunches for the influx of students. McLaughlin, along with Charmayne Polen, Chief Operating Officer and Principal of grades seven through nine, had a meeting with Conference Services to determine a solution. 

“Over the last several years, we have had significant issues with our lunch count. Last year it was particularly bad,” McLaughlin said. “Regularly, we would be short 20 to 30 lunches because students were not taking the appropriate steps in the morning to be added to the lunch count. When this happened, the students in Lunch C would either have to wait for more lunches to be made or would have to be offered something different than what was on the menu.”

Prior to this year, teachers would be in charge of taking lunch count every morning. They would record the number of students buying lunch and what lunch they were getting, either a hot lunch or a salad. The salad bar was removed this year from the lunch options and subsequently replaced by the sandwich bar option. Now, students individually fill out a Google Form with their name. This form needs to be filled out between 8:30 a.m and 8:45 a.m, otherwise, the student can only receive a peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich. When students arrive for lunch, names are checked off to make sure they ordered lunch in the morning. 

A new [lunch] system was introduced to the students and staff on Sept. 30th. “Recently, we had to ask students to come into the lunchroom and first have a seat. From there, we call up all sandwich buying students first, then all hot lunch buying students,” McLaughlin stated. “We had to implement this new rule because too many students were not following the rules. Some were sneaking past the staff checking names, others were told to get a PB&J or cheese sandwich and not doing so once they got in line. Unfortunately, the actions of a handful of students made us have to adjust our procedures to account for those not doing as we need.”

This new system affects not only the students but also the staff. A critical part of the reasoning for the switch of lunch systems was the struggle of keeping the kids under control. The new system was partially created to make it easier for the lunch staff and monitors.

“[The staff has] also appreciated the new process of waiting to line up for lunch and lining up by lunch category,” McLaughlin said. “This helps their staff focus on what is needed for our students and it has minimized their need to intervene with students that were not following the rules.”

“I feel that the new lunch system works pretty well. It makes things organized. However, it can be unfair to students who order hot lunch as they have to wait more. Overall it is working as best as it can,” said James Pennell, the seventh grade social studies teacher and the lunch monitor for the ninth through eleventh graders. 

Pennell continued, “It does make students more organized and easier to manage,” he added, “but there will always be problems.”

Students also provided feedback about the lunch system. “I feel like it’s a lot more confusing than it should be,” Caleb Scheifele, a freshman said. “ I feel like you should just be able to get in line when you get to the lunchroom.” 

“If you forget to do [the form] as soon as it goes out of that time period [of 15 minutes] you aren’t able to have lunch,” Scheifele continued. 

Eighth-graders wait in the lunch line for sandwiches and hot lunch, during Lunch B. Photo by Cadence Gutman, staff writer.

Alivia Skelly, a junior, agreed stating, “[The lunch form] sucks for people with a low memory span. Most people don’t get reminded either.” 

Other students agree with this sentiment. “I don’t think switching systems was a good idea at all,” Anthony Rhinehart, a seventh-grader, stated. “We all have to wait like 20 minutes to get lunch. I would make the hot lunch go first, because the sandwich bar takes a lot longer.” 

The sandwich bar consists of multiple options including different types of meat, cheese, veggies, and bread that can be toasted. Students will first get into the left line and say what meat and cheese they want and if they want their bread to be toasted. Then students will get in the right line and wait until they can get their bread. Finally, they add their vegetables.

Further changes to the lunch schedule have been made by Polen, staff members, and teachers.

Seventh, eighth, and ninth-graders switched lunches on Oct. 21. Previously, the seventh and eighth-graders ate during Lunch A and the ninth graders ate during Lunch B. The seventh and ninth graders now eat during Lunch A and the eighth graders now eat during Lunch B. 

Polen discussed the reasoning behind this decision. “It was made to streamline lunch processes and procedures in terms of the number of kids we have in the lunchroom at one time,” she continues. “In addition, we wanted to ensure staff members who are helping with lunch have the ability to meet with their grade level teams during that time. In terms of feedback, we’ve heard a few students say they wish we didn’t change it and I understand they were in a rhythm and routine.  However, we feel this is the best solution to make lunch more manageable for everyone, which is the ultimate goal.” 

There is a mix of opinions among the students. Some who are aren’t bothered by the situation at all and others are on the opposite side, being against the idea entirely.  

“Well, seeing how I have yet to experience it, I can’t give a proper opinion on the situation,” Kami Huffman, a freshman, stated. “Though it’s a bit annoying that we have to change lunch after already becoming so used to the schedule we’ve become attuned to. The old schedule is simpler.”

Riley Danner, a seventh-grader, said,“It’s hard because I have friends that are in the eighth grade and I still want to be with them [during lunch].” 

It’s still too early to tell if further changes will be made. As of now, these changes are expected to garner more feedback in the future. While these changes have been made to make the lunch process more organized, there is still student discourse over whether or not these changes will benefit them.

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