Trays full of stromboli, mashed potato bowls and breakfast. These dishes have students at Central York running for the cafeteria to be first in line. Everyone’s favorite part of the day is now just as exciting as swim class… not at all.
However in the 2020 school year, lunches look different. This year, one of the biggest differences is that all lunches are free. Free lunches sound great, but the options might not seem so great. Pizza accompanied with lima beans, ravioli and meatballs with curly fries have been a few meals this year that students have not been satisfied with. Sarah Miller, a junior, said that her least favorite meal this school year has been meatballs and curly fries. She went on to say that if lunch was not free she would pack instead.
The lunch options are not even half the problem for the students. The monthly menus are confusing and have been inaccurate to the surprise of students arriving to eat. Elaina Murray, who is also a junior said that she has had a few experiences where she went into lunch thinking she was going to get the lunch that was listed on the monthly menu but when she got to the cafeteria another meal was listed, and she ended up not getting lunch altogether.
Murray also said she would rather pack her lunch than buy school lunch.
“Breakfast is my favorite lunch,” Miller said.
Breakfast has been served once this year. Students have shared their frustration, but do they truly understand what it is like to get lunch ready for at least 1,000 students?
The person who can answer to the student’s frustration and confusion is the head chef, Yasmeen Henry, who represents the cafeteria staff and everything that goes on behind the scenes. Henry has been working in Central York High School’s cafeteria for four years. This is her first year as head chef. She talked about how lunches have not changed that much over the years. Emily Stump, the Food Service Director and Patty Christy make the monthly menus. The monthly menu is based on a six-week rotation. The meals have not changed much because in years past students have given positive feedback about the lunches on the menu, but if they want to try something new, they will switch out meals to try the new ones. If students respond positively to the new meals then those meals will be added to the menu.
“They kind of want to see what the students like. We want to know.” Henry said.
The lunch ladies want to give the students more options, so they try new things. They want to please the students and sometimes that means stepping out of the box and trying new foods like ravioli. If the students do not like it, they will not make it again.
Another topic of conversation with Henry was the monthly menus not matching up with what is actually for lunch.
“Sometimes we will order something on a truck, and for some reason, they might not have it, or they may not have enough of it because everyone is trying to order at the same time, so then we will try to change the menu,” Henry said.
The lunch ladies cannot control if the truck does not bring them enough of a certain food. They have to roll with the punches, and students need to understand that when the monthly menus do not always add up with what is for lunch it is not the lunch ladies’ fault.
With the complaining coming from students, Henry was asked about what she wants students to know about her job. Her answer came with passion.
Henry said, “We try our best to make everything the best that we can for them. We want them to just appreciate that we are working hard for them, and we want to make sure that they have good, hot food.”
The biggest takeaway is understanding that those in the kitchen are working as hard as those in the classroom with students’ health in mind. Cafeteria staff see and hear complaints of long lines and sour tastes just like students, but they also want to give students variety and quality. Henry is new to a manager’s position but she continues to put her heart and soul in making students happy. Before students complain, they should understand that there is someone like Henry, who is working hard to give them everything she has.