Defne Onal managing editor
Gina Toore staff writer
During their breaks, students wait in a long line that extends outside of the cafeteria. All public high schools in California have the option to eat free lunch in the occurring fall term due to the unexpected state budget surplus in July.
When school reopened in the fall, students and administrators found that the country’s largest free student lunch program contributed to long lines and even longer waiting times.
“At the very beginning of school, it was chaotic. There was no organization; we didn’t have any of the dividers up, so it was taking about 30 to 35 minutes to get through lunch. And lunch is only until 12:40 or 1 p.m.,” Assistant Principal of Student Services Torray Johnson said.
After a while, the divider poles were put up, and waiting times cut down dramatically.
“By the time we got [the dividers put up], the bulk of the students who would come through would be done [waiting] in 15 minutes, so we cut the wait time by half,” Johnson said.
In comparison to the beginning of the school year, students have noticed progress in getting their lunch.
“At first, it was disastrous, imagine a mob of people just shoving each other, and it definitely wasn’t COVID safe, but the new line system is a lot better,” senior Temmie Park said.
Despite this progress, there are still questions about the free lunches and waiting lines. Senior Jennifer Li, for example, isn’t sure “what would happen to the money” she still has in her lunch card.
In terms of finding ways to improve the lunch line, Johnson says that the cafeteria is understaffed.
“We’re short-staffed in the cafeteria. Some lunches, such as hot meals, have to be served, scooped out of containers and put onto containers. We just don’t have enough staff, and when we don’t have enough staff, it creates a lot of crowding inside, which means I can’t allow a lot of people to go in because of COVID,” Johnson said.
Overall, California has leveled the playing field when it comes to school food by implementing this new free lunch program.
“The food program is excellent because it assists a lot of students that need it,” junior Sima Arslan said.“The lunch line is a lot shorter than before, and it generally is an efficient way to get fed.”