Whatever feelings it might evoke, for decades school lunch has been an integral part of everyday student school life; a hallmark of classic American education. And on a global scale, school meal programs act as one of the largest social safety nets; ensuring the nutrition needed for growing minds and bodies, and supporting the whole community by strengthening food systems and economies.
The past year, Eagle Rock High School has been experimenting with various ways to entice more students to participate in the school’s free meal program. From changing up the recipes in-house to providing vegetarian options, the cafeteria has undergone various procedures to gather a larger audience. And at the head of all of this is Jennie Martin the dedicated and incredibly kind manager of Eagle Rock’s cafeteria. Relatively new to the job, starting in November of 2022, Ms. Martin strives to share the often-ignored opportunity of school lunch.
Staff writer Izak Menta tried three lunch entrees: chicken nuggets, buffalo wings, and fish sticks. All three “tasted great”. He also tried the three-bean chili, saying that its “only downfall was the unappetizing appearance”. According to him, the grapes and apples tasted fresh, akin to anything one would find in a supermarket. Although he cannot speak for the quality of the other offerings, his opinion suggests that there are at least a few desirable school lunch options.
Out of the two thousand students that attend ERHS, roughly four hundred consistently get hot lunch every day and that number is destined to drop in the 2023-2024 school year. Currently, breakfast is priced at $3.60 and lunch is $5.10, however, all LAUSD-issued meals have been free to all students for the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles Times claims that when the free food program launched during the first semester of the 2021 school year, it became the largest free food program in the country. The program meant that every student had access to a free LAUSD-issued meal, however, if students want to purchase individual items such as a slice of pizza ($2.00) or a carton of juice ($0.50), without the rest of the meal, they must pay. In the fall semester of the 2023-2024 school year LAUSD issued lunches will no longer be free for all students. Students must fill out a meal application form at the beginning of the semester, which can be completed online or on paper, and determines if students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Joleen Cardoza (9th grade), along with other Eagle Rock students say that the price change definitely complicates whether or not they will be eating school lunch in the future.