Illustration by Tristan Ing

Universal free lunch has unexpected negatives

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Following state legislation, the district has started offering all students, regardless of income status, free meals for the 2021-22 school year. Although this idea is rooted in goodwill, its implementation has created problems. Since the school year started, students have encountered congested lunch lines, a nosedive in food quality, and many other issues that the district needs to resolve. 

After reading pages of COVID-19 guidelines, the school still managed to create a situation where hundreds of students need to line up in a place where they are divided by mere centimeters of space. In normal times, this would be an uncomfortable way to get lunch, but during a pandemic, this is inexcusable incompetence that puts the entire student body at risk. It is fair to assume that the school knew that with free meals, more students would stop bringing their own food and default to the convenience of school lunch.Yet, they had only made minimal preparations, such as an ineffective secondary line that the students can line up in.

In addition, it does not seem like the district was prepared to make such a drastic shift in the amount of food it was serving every day. This unpreparedness translates to obviously lower-quality meals compared to years past. Pho and ramen became the literally named “cheese bread,” a piece of cheese on bread that is meant to be the entree in a meal that feeds a high school student. This type of food is unacceptable and is unable to provide a teen with sufficient nutrients for the day. The school has long preached that teens need energy to maximize their learning. However, simultaneously, they have actively blocked teens from getting that energy by serving sub-par lunch. 

Although it is true that the school has technically succeeded in abiding by state legislation and offering a meal to each student, it has failed to do so in a meaningful manner. It violates COVID-19 guidelines and offers sub-par food to students. The school, before this even started, had publicized the solution to their own problem. Staggered lunches were proposed before the summer break started, and it was a great way to keep students away from each other while also giving them more time to enjoy their lunch. However, inexplicably, the school just decided to go with a normal lunch schedule, which no longer makes sense under current  circumstances and the new offering of free lunch. 

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