Lunches leaving students hungry throughout the day

School lunches have taken a wild change this year. They are being delivered in to-go boxes and students are only given one hot lunch option and one cold lunch option.

Students started receiving free school lunches Sept. 17 this will end June 21, 2021; the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) distributed money to each school district within the state for free breakfasts and lunches, there was also left over COVID funds that gave the school money for the first semester of school lunches. Students believe the lunches have become significantly smaller than usual because of free school lunches. 

Some male athletes are still hungry after eating one lunch, so they have begun to ask other classmates who bring their own lunch to get another school lunch for them. 

“I have been asking other students for another lunch because I am starving off how little food we get,” senior Tyler McConathy said.  

School lunches come from the Central Kitchen staff, who follow federal guidelines for the amount of food given out to students. 

“The portions are the same size this year as last year,” Central Kitchen manager Tracey Montemayor said in an email interview. 

The federal guidelines tell the staff at Central Kitchen how many calories, ounces of grains and meat, how many cups of fruits, vegetables, and milk, and more that a student should get in a lunch.

The Central Kitchen staff follows these federal guidelines that are provided by Kansas State Department of Education. (Source School Nutrition Programs)

Even though the kitchen staff is following federal guidelines, students still feel they should be given more food. The amount of food served can have a big impact on student athletes who can have one or two gym classes a day. 

“Student athletes need up to a couple thousand calories a day, you need to make sure you are restoring your body with proper nutrients,” health teacher Dawson Elliott said.  “Also with practice being at the end of the day, an athlete needs to have the energy to make it through a two hour practice.”

In the past years, lunch service has included multiple choices of hot and cold lunches; students would choose between two different main courses or eat a salad. They enjoyed this because they were more likely to eat most of their food when getting to choose what they eat. Students left lunch feeling full and like they had, had a good meal. 

“I think that we do not get enough food in our school lunches because last year we got a lot more,” junior Hunter Henderson said. “My stomach is usually empty when I get done eating lunch.” 

Both males and females feel the amount of food given is inadequate.

“We are some of the smallest girls in the school and this is still not enough for us,” senior Taylor Braungart said.

With COVID-19, the Central Kitchen is not able to provide multiple options this year. Packaging takes time and that is something the kitchen staff does not have. 

“With the increase in lunches we had to decrease our hot and cold options to two in order to keep up with the demand,” Montemayor said. “As you can imagine, the packaging takes a great deal of time, and we still want to provide all students with a healthy meal.”

The Central Kitchen staff allows students to grab as many sides as they want in order to fill their hunger. 

“Students can take as much as the side options they would like in addition to their lunch, these include fruit, vegetables, and a side salad. High school students may now purchase Ala Carte as well,” Montemayor said.