Students react to new lunch policy


by Jenny Lee & Justin Liu, News Reporters

photo by Marty Pierce

At the end of summer, Newton Public Schools’ website announced that South would be transitioning from the federal Seamless Summer Option lunch program, which was implemented during the pandemic and provided unlimited grab-and-go meals to students, to the National School Lunch Program.

Under the new policy, first meals are free; however, with meals now tracked through students’ LASID number at the register, students must pay $5.50 for second meals and individual prices for snack items. Additionally, students must take a complementary fruit and dairy product for their first meal — if a student doesn’t, they will be charged. 

Sophomore Maya Hayao said that the requirement of fruit and dairy promotes food waste. She said that although she appreciates the attempt to push more nutritious meals, high school students should be responsible for their own nutrition. 

“When I look at the trash, it’s always filled with unwrapped fruits. I feel like people eat their fruits and vegetables at home on their own time, and we don’t need our school parenting us to eat more” she said.

Senior Sam Roberts said that waiting for students to enter their LASID numbers at the registers has made the process of getting lunch less efficient.

“The lunch lines are so long that I just don’t get food until halfway through the lunch block because they’re absurd,” he said.

Senior Hannah Namini said that students are discouraged from buying a second meal due to the cost.

“I interviewed the school nurses earlier this year [about eating disorders], and they said that having unlimited free lunches decreased the rate of kids passing out and going to the nurse for dizziness,” she said.

However, sophomore Naomi Sandler said that the new lunch system is an improvement from last year’s.

“I like how there’s broader options of food, and it definitely tastes better. I also like how there are healthier options,” she said.

Behind the lunch counters and manning the registers are South’s eight cafeteria workers. Maria Meade, the cafeteria’s chief manager, said that the new system has required their work to be more complex and creative.

“Last year, it was simple. We just made brown bags, and the kids would grab and go, but this year, it’s different, because we serve better food and more choices,” she said. 

Meade said that students’ consumption of vegetables is not under her control, and the only thing she can do is to ensure that every plate served follows government guidelines. 

“If the government comes here, and we do not have all the components on that plate, we get fined,” she said. 

Meade said she wants to do better by creating more meal options like opening the deli; however, these expectations cannot be met with their limited staff.

“Right now we do around 750 to 800 meals a day” she said. “It can be hard to meet this expectation while short on staff, but at the end of the day, I think our staff does the best we can in hopes that everybody goes home with a full belly.”

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