"Dining Downer" by Brynne Barnard-Bahn

EDITORIAL: School lunches are unsatisfactory

To incoming Country Day families, the lunch program is one of the most attractive parts of the school. After all, who doesn’t want to eat lunch catered by actual restaurants every day of the week?

But this past year, the quality of food has been on a constant decline. The restaurants and the catering services have become too comfortable, and Country Day needs to keep them in check. 

The three main problems students have with the lunch service are the quality of food resulting from individually packaged lunches, the small and inconsistent portion sizes and the delivery time of the food. 

Country Day caters from Boudin SF on Mondays; Noodles and Company on Tuesdays; Noah’s Bagels on Wednesdays; Pizza Guys or Dominos on Thursday; and Chili’s on Friday.

Most students are satisfied with the catering service by Boudin SF and Chili’s, but the other meals need to be changed or improved.

When ordering from Noodles and Company students receive a bowl of pasta with a side of Caesar salad.

In a high school-wide March 15 Octagon poll 18 of the 19 students who responded said they are not satisfied with the quality of the salad. This is either because of the soggy croutons or the lack of lettuce. 

Sophomore Brooke Barker has been ordering school lunch since lower school, and she isn’t satisfied at all with the quality this year.

“The salads are way too small, and there are usually bad leaves inside,” Barker said. 

Are a few pieces of lettuce with soggy croutons even considered a salad?

Before the pandemic, the Caesar salad was tossed at the restaurant, and a faculty member would serve it on campus buffet style. Croutons came in an air-sealed bag, and students would put them on their salads. This provided students with an appropriate amount of lettuce and crunchy croutons. Students were even allowed to go back for seconds!

But because of the pandemic and the then-existing regulations, Country Day was forced to individually package lunches. With the recent drop of cases, that regulation has been lifted, but Country Day continues to individually package lunches because it’s still the safest option, said lunch program coordinator Jennifer Adams. 

Masks are now optional both inside and outside, so why is the lunch program still individually packing the salad? If it means that more students will be content with their food, Country Day should go back to having the salad tossed at Noodles and Company.

Another problem with Noodles and Company is the pasta portion sizes. On Nov. 22, The Octagon polled 38 students who order pasta. Thirty of them said they want bigger portions.

Middle schoolers and high schoolers get the same portion sizes, which simply doesn’t make sense. 

Now for the issue with Noah’s Bagels – consistency.

Cream cheese is provided in a small plastic cup, and most of the time there’s only a small glob of shmear not even enough for half a bagel.

Noah’s Bagels lunches are also advertised with a fruit cup. But again, are a couple of grapes and a cube of cantaloupe considered fruit cups?

That being said, the students are asking the school to regulate the restaurant’s quality control and demand more cream cheese. 

And finally, Thursday comes around: pizza day. Everybody’s favorite day of the week. Or is it?

High schoolers who order lunch on Thursdays receive individually packaged small pizzas from either Pizza Guys or Dominos. 

In the same Octagon poll, all but one of the 24 students who responded said the pizza is stale. The Pizza Guys’ pizza is also cut into fourths, which makes it harder to eat.

“The pizza is almost always cold and stale,” Barker said. “Also, they don’t cut the pizzas all the way through, so you can literally just pick up the whole pizza.”

This is just unacceptable. The pizza places are getting too comfortable and are cutting corners to meet their delivery. The school needs to keep them in check and make sure companies are putting 100% effort into making their pizza. 

An alternative solution is to go back to the pre-pandemic pizza days where slices would be handed out buffet style. This way, the restaurants will hopefully put more effort into making a fewer number of large pizzas than mass-producing small pizzas. The food was much tastier this way. 

The Environmentalist Club, led by junior president Adam Akins, goes around campus daily to pick up the waste and recycle. For them, the day with the most garbage is pizza days.

The cardboard pizza boxes aren’t that easy to recycle, either. For Akins and his team of four helpers, it takes them 30 minutes each Thursday to recycle the waste.

So if Country Day returns to handing out fresh, quality-enforced slices of pizza, the school won’t just be doing a favor to students’ taste buds, but to nature as well. 

For this system to work, there would have to be a faculty member out by the lunch tables on Tuesdays and Thursdays handing out salads and slices of pizza.

It could seem like a lot for a teacher to give up half of their lunch to hand out food, but please know that by doing this you would be doing a great favor to the student body. 

The final complaint is the actual time the food is delivered.

Lunches are scheduled to be delivered at 11:30 a.m., Adams said. 

But let’s break down the timing. By the time students are released from their last class and make their way to grab their lunch, it is 12:15 p.m. The lunches have been sitting out for 45 minutes. And with the hotter months approaching, a salad that’s been sitting in 95-degree weather for 45 minutes doesn’t sound too appetizing.

If the food was delivered closer to noon, it would be fresher and more delicious. 

The lunch program isn’t fully at blame, but rather the restaurants. Still, it is Country Day’s responsibility to have a leash on the restaurants to assure that students are getting the best quality of food they can get.

— By Staff

Originally published in the March 29 edition of the Octagon.

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