Let Them Eat Lunch! (With the Students)

By CHLOE CITRON and RACHEL HIRSCHHEIMER

First Place, Best News Story — LIU Post Best of High School Journalism Awards 2016

Second Place, Online- Feature — Long Island Press  High School Journalism Awards 2016

The faculty cafeteria: a world of mystery and wonder to students. What goes on in the teachers’ cafeteria? Do they have parties during their lunch periods? Do they have gourmet food off-limits to students? No one will ever know, because to the dismay of many, students and staff now share the same lunch line.

In an effort championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, the nutrition standards for school lunches have changed drastically in recent years. These new standards have required schools to serve healthier options and well-balanced meals causing many districts, including Jericho, to make changes to their food service system. Additionally, students who purchase lunch were looking for a greater variety of options when buying their afternoon meals.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Business Affairs Victor Manuel, “We restructured staffing in the cafeteria operations this year in order to provide additional lunch options and shift resources to the students.” Even though staff lunch has been served for many years, Manuel claims, “Overall, the number of lunches that were served in the faculty cafeteria was minimal.” Manuel also stated that the teachers have been requesting additional options. With the new food service adjustment, that was achieved.

Director of Jericho’s school lunch program Tracy Gilet explained the new food options offered in the cafeteria. “There is a pizza option daily except Fridays because hot lunch includes a pizza bagel, there are always two hot options, there is a salad bar available which the teachers had been asking for, more grain choices for sandwiches, and different kinds of meats as well.”

Many students have been enjoying the new food service changes. Senior Eric B. was happy about the new choices provided. “I like that there are two hot lunch options every day, especially pizza.” Another student Sophie R. said, “I think that this is a good step toward better lunches in school. I appreciate the new changes made to the food system.”

Learning Center teacher Ms. Kimmick eats lunch in the faculty cafeteria that is still available for staff use despite the lack of food service.

Learning Center teacher Ms. Kimmick eats lunch in the faculty cafeteria that is still available for staff use despite the lack of food service.

Many of the teachers, however, don’t see the change in a positive light. When teachers returned to school this year, they received an e-mail explaining the change in the food service system. Many teachers felt that the communication they received was unclear. One high school teacher said, “There was no explanation except for an e-mail with instructions about how to order lunch. As I far as I know, a true explanation or reason for this was never really given.” Another teacher said, “I wish more information was given such as how much it costs the district [to maintain the faculty cafeteria] and how many people use the cafeteria. I think a breakdown of costs made public to the teachers would have helped soften the impact.”

Teachers wait on the same line as students to take advantage of the new salad bar, an option staff had been requesting for years according to Mr. Manuel.

Teachers wait on the same line as students to take advantage of the new salad bar, an option staff had been requesting for years according to Mr. Manuel.

The change in food service was communicated to the staff members through the building principals. Dr. Gately told his middle school staff members at the first staff meeting of the school year. Middle school science teacher Joshua Smith feels the way in which the change was communicated was slightly unclear at first with the e-mail; however, he understood the adjustment in food service after the first staff meeting. Although he had not been an avid user of the teachers’ cafeteria, Smith isn’t against the change. “I had stopped going [to the faculty cafeteria] and just started going out and getting food.  I wouldn’t say the elimination was a bad thing.”

Teachers expressed their discontent with the new system as well. Sharing a cafeteria with students is “unprofessional” for many teachers, and they feel it’s difficult on a tight schedule.  “We have such limited time to eat within the 40-minute period cycle. To wait on line with students is an unnecessary delay. In other school districts teachers are allowed to cut the student line,” said another teacher.  A multitude of teachers have seen their eating habits at school greatly affected. Some teachers who forget to bring lunch feel like they don’t have anywhere to get food because they would prefer not to use the student cafeteria. Some clerical and support staff feel awkward entering the student cafeteria because they do not know many students. Another faculty member feels the new system is “discombobulated” and doesn’t want to share the cafeteria with students because they are “not comfortable doing so and the cafeteria is too loud.”

Students don't mind that the teachers share the food service system with them, but some feel bad for the staff. Senior Jacklyn B. said, "Teachers shouldn't be wasting their time in this cafeteria. They are very busy, and it must be difficult for them to come in here."

Students don’t mind that the teachers share the food service system with them, but some feel bad for the staff. Senior Jacklyn B. said, “Teachers shouldn’t be wasting their time in this cafeteria. They are very busy, and it must be difficult for them to come in here.”

English teacher Ken Darr feels strongly about the change. “I believe students need student space as teachers need both professional and personal space, so often this is achieved with a simple 40 minute lunch period.” He added, “It illustrates an unfortunate lack of understanding of what teachers do.”

Some faculty members do see positives with the change. One faculty member stated, “The plus side is that we are now being offered the same food as the students, and the food is healthier and has more variety.”

Tracy Gilet explained that the faculty can place their orders in the morning via e-mail (tgilet@jerichoschools.org) and can access the hot lunch menu on the homepage of the Jericho website. Unfortunately, some teachers who have tried this system have not experienced positive results. A faculty member said, “I tried the new order system but it didn’t work. My food wasn’t ready on time, and I still had to wait on line anyway.”

Mr. Manuel and Ms. Gilet asked that anyone with suggestions, comments, or questions reach out to them in order to improve the new food service system.

By request of some teachers, names have been withheld. 

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4 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • Bela Kirpalani
    4 November 2015 at 10:04 am - Reply

    I understand why the teachers prefer a teacher-only cafeteria, but maybe this new system can be another way for students to interact with teachers. The headline is so clever! Exceptional article, Rachel and Chloe!

  • Alex Marshall
    3 November 2015 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Great job guys!

  • Larry Hirschheimer
    3 November 2015 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    I believe this situation mirrors life. Change for anyone is hard. Nobody likes change. We changed a software system recently and everyone was uncomfortable and missed the old system. It has been about 2 months now and everyone thinks the new system is much better. It still has some enhancements needed but the learning curve is over. I think the same could be said for this change. It probably needs a few tweaks and a little more convience for the teachers to get their order quicker. Possibly a teacher only line? I would bet that this situation will enhance the relationships between the students, faculty and staff. Sometimes familiarity can improve comfortability. In the long run this will be a win, win situation for everyone.

  • Mikaela Adwar
    3 November 2015 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Love the title! Keep up the great work and I miss you all!

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