Update on school meals this year


Ross Koenig ('24)

The new school lunch offers a variety of food and drinks.

One of the most visible changes seen by students returning to East this fall is the end of universal free lunches for all students. This end was in response to the depletion of federal funds allocated during the pandemic.

The end of this program raised many questions about how this change will affect students and many people worry about the financial impact of this decision on low-income students. This new change in lunches, however, has brought many benefits including an increase in food option availability and less food waste.

A member of the food staff, who chose to remain anonymous, said that since the year has started and free lunches have ended, “the meals are much bigger and better quality, and the students seem to be enjoying them more.”

The meals do appear to be bigger as they have more sides and other components that were not present under the free lunch system. 

“More choices are available at lunch and there is a whole new [side of the lunch area] that has opened this year that features new meals that frequently change,” said the staff member. The increase in quality is likely due to the removal of the incentive to stretch federal dollars so students could continue to receive free lunches, a program that existed for almost a year and a half.

Not all students and staff share the same sentiment. East student Lizzy Mueller (‘24) shared her experience with the new school lunches, saying that “there are definitely more options for lunch, but the quality still remains the same.” Mueller said that lunches seemed to not have changed much from pre-pandemic years, but she also pointed out that like other public schools, East receives one of the lowest cost tiers of food from Aramark. 

The quality of lunches has been a major issue in the school’s food program for many years and it seems that although the lunch quality increase is doubted by some, options have certainly increased. 

“[I remembered] how the school lunches in middle school had many more options, and now East’s [lunches] are more in line with that,” said Affan Rahman (‘24). 

Food waste was also another topic that concerned administration last year, but not all students threw out their food. Tyler Kollman (‘24) said he “never really threw out food, but always packed [his] own lunch in addition to the school one because it was so small” and that lunches “are definitely bigger this year”. These thoughts mimic observations also noted by the kitchen staff.

The program for students to receive free or reduced lunches has not completely stopped, however, as families can still apply. To do so, go to chclc.org, click on the “Departments” tab, and click on “Food Services.” At the bottom of that page, there is a button leading to the portal to fill out a free/reduced lunch application. Alternatively, one can contact the school to receive a paper application.