While there have always been the stereotyped complaints about the quality of food in a high school cafeteria, you don’t really hear any vexes about the quantity of the food students are receiving when they sit down for lunch.
Mineola High School student Brittany Vera recently extended an invitation to the Mineola Board of Education to join them for a lunch period or two “because we’ve had a struggle with the cafeteria ladies for a little while and we’ve tried every possible ways of not having to go to this level.”
According to Vera, many students are complaining that the food portion sizes they are being served are too small, “which we understand is, it comes from the eighth graders as well because the eighth graders get smaller portions than regular high school students so that’s obviously noted but the high school kids are like ‘wait a minute, we’re not eighth graders anymore, we eat more’,” she said during the board’s November 15 meeting at the Willis Avenue School. “They want you to basically sit in the cafeteria and experience the lunch; between seventh and eighth period.”
For Vera, who has purchased lunch since fifth grade, as well as students like her, the choice is a little more difficult between eating food in the cafeteria and going out to eat, especially when it comes to price.
“Now I go out obviously, but at the same time I don’t want to go out all the time because... it’s the same price as a regular school lunch, so if we’re going to stay in rather than going out or doing homework in the library, I want a good portion of food,” she said. “I don’t want 5 chicken nuggets and then going to have to get like, if I want double lunch or if I want more than that I pay more because now the school lunch is paid even more because the price is raised.”
According to Vera, some eighth periods lunches have also run out of food.
“That’s a first for me,” board president William Hornberger said of the cafeterias not having food to serve. “I don’t know if anyone else on the board has heard that.”
Dr. Nagler said that he also had not heard about lunch periods running out of food, but suggested the board attend eighth period lunch to investigate.
“It has been appraised to the board from the superintendent the aspect of certain periods either having, individuals not having enough time, and again portion size between eighth and the rest of the high school we know the state requires different portion sizes,” Hornberger said, “although when you look at some eighth graders their size... and their portion shouldn’t necessarily be just because of their age, but that’s not my decision. You would think it would be some other qualification, but that’s a separate discussion.”
Several student groups from across the country have also garnered internet fame for protesting federal guidelines championed by First Lady Michelle Obama known as the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which sets age-aligned calorie restrictions of up to 850 calories with an emphasis on less sugar, whole grains, restrictions on meat and only allowing low or non-fat milk as a drink. Students in homemade videos say that they are falling asleep in class due to the lower portion sizes and are going through the rest of the day still hungry.
Actually getting food is another challenge said Vera, who with other students held meetings with the cafeteria workers, asking if they could provide pre-wrapped salads and cookies to help shorten lines and expedite the distribution of food.
“The salad lines is still as long,” Vera said. “I don’t even get a salad because I can’t wait on that line at lunch; I have to go to extra help or finish a test or something like that and I can’t do that because I can’t wait on the line that long.”
One counter next to the snack shop is also reportedly closed, which Vera said could be opened as a dedicated salad station.
“It’s like they’re trying to buy gas,” trustee Artie Barnett quipped.
“We will make a visit to the lunchroom and see if we can help that out,” superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said.