Pioneer lunches: Serving up concerns about quality and choice

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Pioneer lunches: Serving up concerns about quality and choice

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Pioneer students make their way into the crowded cafeteria, shouting and shoving to reach their friends, ready for a break from their busy days. Many assemble in long lines in the hallway outside, waiting for their chance to purchase lunch. The students at the back of the line are disappointed when they reach the front to find that the options they were hoping for have run out. Now they must find something else. 

This year, the barriers designating different lines have been removed, making it harder to control the flow of students. Pioneer Junior Emma Pedroni-Meyer thinks this organization system isn’t ideal. “They’ve changed it a bit since last year and so when I went in for the first time this year, I had no idea where anything was. It’d be good if they had big signs over where each of the [food options] are because when there are  so many people in there waiting for lunch, it’s hard to tell.” said Pedroni-Meyer.

Pedroni-Meyer also said that sometimes when they are running out of a certain option, the lines can get hectic. One Friday she tried to get the Domino’s Friday special.  “When the pizza started running out people started scrambling and cutting in line to get pizza before other people. People were trying to cut me and shove me out of the way,” Pedroni-Meyer said. “I’m sure there was other stuff still left that they could have gotten but if people want pizza, maybe there should be a little more pizza.”

All the other food sold at lunch is provided by Chartwells Food Service. The head of the Department of Food Services, Tiffany Houston, said an average of 300-350 students, out of a total of about 2,000, buy lunch daily. To accommodate this, they prepare between 350 and 400 meals to be ready for both lunches. Food that is served by workers gets carefully stored for the next day. All premade meals that are not purchased within the lunches are thrown away to avoid germs and bacteria.

We do replenish the meals until we have placed all items out for service. We make food 

fresh for each lunch period, to ensure that all meals are hot. We will never be exact with counts as we continue to increase the meal selections and students have the option to choose to eat from those stations,” Houston said.

It is also difficult for servers to predict how many of each option to make. Based on numbers from past days, the Food Service Department decides which meals to serve. “We never know what students will select from day to day,” Houston said. “We look at previous counts to determine how many of each menu item to make. We are always striving to offer a variety of fresh foods and without students placing orders before lunch, we are bound to miscalculate our numbers at times.”

Pioneer students also have a problem with the portion sizing of the hot lunches.I am an athlete and they’re serving us little tiny sandwiches,” said Junior Felicia Stewart.  “It’s not enough, I’ll be hungry at practice.”

 The money made by the food sales is an important source of revenue for the district. Each sale is reimbursed by the state to fund the schools. However, while students could always purchase more food, the question of what is a fair price for a full lunch is still an issue to students. “Last week when I forgot my lunch, I went in for their special Domino’s Pizza for Fridays and I literally bought two slices of pizza and a bottle of water and it was about eight dollars and that’s pretty ridiculous,” said Pedroni-Meyer.

This is also a struggle for students who are part of the free and reduced lunch program. District-wide 4,073 students qualify for these accommodations.

“People who qualify for free or reduced lunches have to eat that as their only option Pedroni-Meyer said. “I think it’s kind of the school’s responsibility to have good food for us, especially for that reason.”

The issue of the food’s quality is a major concern for many students. For many, it does 

not meet the standards of an acceptable meal.

“It’s not the best quality of food,” said Anna Kaganov, a Sophomore. “Some days it’s better than others, though.”

While the students do not always find the lunch food satisfactory, the catering provided bt Chartwells for school board meetings is known for its decadence. Chartwells is capable of producing good food, but has not demonstrated this to the students. 

While the negativity remains among Pioneer students, they remain hopeful and have ideas on how to improve.

Stewart believes that improving the set up of the lunch lines would be beneficial.

“There’s too many people and they could organize it a little bit better,” she said.

Pedroni-Meyer also has hopes for new innovations in the lunch system. “I know this isn’t very possible but,” she suggested,  “it’d be nice if we had an actual chef like come in and, like, make food and be paid well instead of people heating up things that are shipped in.”