The new school year brought new, shorter lunch schedules and the return of free meals. While this has resulted in an increase in the number of kids who can eat a good lunch and breakfast everyday, the resulting increase in the number of meals has taken a toll on the lunch staff.
On Friday, March 17, 2023, Governor Walz signed the Free School Meals bill into law. This legislation provides a free breakfast and lunch to students who receive meals through their school’s participation in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. This meant that students in the BHM school district would have access to free breakfast and lunch throughout the entire school year.
“In October 2022 we sold 2,630 breakfasts and 18,516 lunches. October 2023 we sold 7,674 breakfasts and 22,850 lunches,” said Susan Karels-Brown, the Nutrition Services Manager at BHS.
With more meals having to be made in 90 minutes instead of the previous 120 minutes due to the shift to trimesters, it causes a big rush for the cafeteria staff at BHS.
“It’s busy. There’s not a lot of time to restock and wash tables but we are doing our best with the time we have,” said Christina Bruce, a Nutrition Services Assistant at BHS.
It also affects the teachers quite a bit, especially those who have A and D lunches.
“With the change in the lunch schedule it makes me have to teach 5 more minutes each day for third hour the whole year,” said Physical Education teacher Austin Youngmark who, along with the rest of the Phy Ed department, has D lunch. “[At the end of the school year] it’s an extra 14 hours for third hour vs fourth hour [for teachers].”
Teachers changing their lunches to accommodate tests has proven to be an issue for lunch staff as they don’t know how many students will be in each lunch. But, when classes that have B and C lunch don’t change their lunch they have a break during the test, leaving more opportunities for cheating. Students with C lunch return to their classes with an awkward amount of time (18 minutes) before the bell rings, leaving little to no time to do anything new. This would also mean they would have about 40 minutes to take a test before lunch if their teacher didn’t change what lunch they had, but wanted to prevent cheating during the break.
“We look at the numbers of students in each lunch, what they ate last time we had that menu item, and plan accordingly so we are close in numbers but don’t run out or have to throw things away,” said Nutrition Services Assistant Courtney Wychgram. “When teachers change the lunches of their classes and don’t let the kitchen know it throws off the numbers and makes it harder for us.”
Everyone is doing the best they can with the new schedule and its challenges. These challenges are everywhere, including the lunch room. The nutrition staff are working hard everyday to give students the nutritious food they need, even with the new changes and obstacles.