What is the Preferred School Lunch Among Students?

There are three primary options, but which one is the best?


Alexander Ramos

Students waiting in line for lunch

Shea Blanchard, Staff Writer

School lunch has been a issue in schools since organized education began. At SHS, many people have praised our school lunch and enjoy eating it every day. Their favorites include the breakfast lunch, pasta with garlic knots, and the cheeseburger. However, other students would prefer an alternative option.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, each student is allowed a free breakfast and lunch every day. Some students believe this has caused a drop in the quality of school lunches.

However, the panini press has returned this year and has presented students with an alternative option from the school lunch. There are several different types of meat and vegetables to choose from to make your own unique panini.

The panini press also has its weaknesses. The press itself can only fit a few sandwiches at a time meaning the line gets longer and the time for you to get your food lengthens. To discuss these school lunch options I talked to Samantha D’Angelo, Director of Food Services at Sutton High School. 

I asked Samantha D’Angelo questions regarding the normal school lunches served every day and what regulations come with them. 

First I asked how the school lunches are served every day and whether certain foods are initially frozen or made fresh.

“We have a mix of pre-made items as well as items that we make from scratch. We aim to cook as much as possible ourselves, but with product shortages and labor this is often difficult to maintain.”

I then asked if there are certain requirements the school has to abide by that most students would not know about. 

“So we have to abide by calorie guidelines, so there’s caloric restrictions for each day and then each week. Fat restrictions and sodium restrictions”. 

Next, I asked Mrs. D’Angelo whether or not certain foods can be served based on their nutritional value.

“I wouldn’t say there is any food we can’t serve but it is important for people to understand we as the foodservice department manage our own budget – so the food, paper products, kitchen equipment, cleaning agents, labor for staff, etc. all come out of our budget. I need to be very mindful of this when menu planning. So unfortunately that does put some menu items out of our range.”

The last question I asked was whether the school has changed its guidelines on school lunches ever since they have been free.

“Not exactly we have had some of the federal guidelines relaxed a bit because of the shortages and that has helped. We are having extreme difficulty getting food, there are nationwide food shortages, manufacturing shortages, truck shortages. So things that we ordered a month ago are just getting now. We aren’t getting our deliveries regularly like we were, we’re getting shorted on products that we’re trying to order and they’re not coming in. That is why the menu is subject to change, it is not because we like to mess with you guys, it’s like we can’t control what we don’t get in. 

With all this in mind, I asked several students for their opinions on what they eat for lunch on a typical day of school. I wanted to know if the majority of students bring their own lunch, order from the panini press, or eat the normal school lunch.

The majority of students said they pack their own lunch. One of these students, Aidan Rogan, had very strong opinions on why he brings his own lunch. “I don’t buy school lunch anymore” and preferred his own food. Naturally, the majority of students that bring in their own lunch do so because they can bring in whatever they prefer. 

Coming in with 10 votes is the regular school lunch. Certain students find the school lunch very convenient since it is free and there are many different options sold every week. Other students like Willem Edwards would rather eat a panini than the regular lunch, but it takes a while to finally get your panini. “I eat the normal lunch because the panini line is too long.” Overall it seems that most students that eat the school lunch eat it because it’s already prepared for them and it takes very little time to grab. 

The choice with the least amount of votes was the panini. Even though the panini was the least voted, its return has been a crowd favorite. Students even rush to the panini press at the bell due to its popularity. Another classmate of mine, Jared Allen, hopped on the panini press bandwagon and preorders a panini on a consistent basis. “Typically I eat the paninis.”

With a wide variety of meats and veggies to choose from, many students don’t see themselves returning to buying the normal lunch. However, with the rising popularity of the panini press, the wait times get longer and longer. Even though you can preorder your sandwich, there is only one panini press and it could take 5-15 minutes before it’s finally your turn to order.

Overall I discovered that students at Sutton have pretty mixed opinions when it comes to what we eat for lunch. Honestly, this was to be expected. The option of bringing your own homemade lunch is too good for some to pass up on; however, the school still provides adequate options for those who don’t bring in their own food. The regular school lunch is a quick and easy solution for those who do not bring lunch but if you’re looking for something different the panini press is a great alternative. 

With the panini press becoming more and more popular, some students have asked if there will be an upgrade to decrease waiting time and the length of the line. During our interview, Mrs. D’Angelo acknowledged the popularity of the panini press and talked about what improvements would be made. A bigger panini press has been ordered to reduce the waiting time, but there have been difficulties finding another worker to operate the panini press.

On top of that, the new panini press has not been able to work because of the need for the new outlet.  The school is attempting to hire an electrician to fix this problem and eventually make getting your panini much sooner. Even with all these obstacles, the Sutton staff does everything they can to give the students variety and quality options for school lunch.