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.”
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.”
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.”
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 (firstname.lastname@example.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.