The line wrapped around the entire cafeteria. Students waited patiently to get served. Lunch at Marion High School is a hit. The consensus was not so obvious.
“You should have seen the line Monday,” Marion High School principal Tod Gordon said. “It was out the door for most of the time.”
Gordon said some students were late to their ensuing class because they were in line for so long getting food.
However, the kinks are being ironed out, he said, and lines will move more quickly as staff and students get used to the new variable that makes lunch at USD 408 so unique: choice.
The main difference students have noticed in the lunch this year though is the simplest, most desirable possibility: It’s better.
Students said they’re getting more food, the quality is improved, and that they appreciate getting to choose their main entrée.
As a result students, who were too busy munching to give eloquent, quotable quips, said they were more likely to get the school’s lunch as opposed to bringing their own.
Sophomore Colin Williams took a minute to mention the improvement of breakfast options as well, which he said included oatmeal and “real waffles” — as opposed to prepackaged frozen ones.
Students can choose from among three entrees, including a daily salad bar. Those who want salads diverge from the main line, while those who prefer a hot lunch must choose between entrée one or entrée two.
Friday, the choice was meat loaf or chicken patty. With many junior and senior students taking advantage of their weekly “free lunch period” day, in which they can leave campus to spend time at home or dining out, the line was smaller than usual.
More students chose chicken patties than meatloaf. Food preparers planned accordingly, even preparing some extra chicken patties beyond what the students had ordered that day.
Even still, the staff ran out. Gordon said students may have changed their minds at the last minute.
Superintendent Lee Leiker said participation was up to around 200 students per day ordering school lunch; last year that number was between 150 and 165.
With more kids choosing school lunch, the district receives more funding from the state, which helps balance the cost of bringing in an outside firm, Opaa! Food Services, to handle the lunchtime grind, Leiker said.
The change has been an adjustment not only for students and faculty, but for cooking staff as well.
“They’re working harder than they were last year,” said Sarah Steinle, district manager for Opaa! “It’s the same number of staff.”
Gordon said he’s pleased with the results so far, and hopes the service will continue to improve.
“Hopefully it’ll continue to change based on what our kids like,” he said.
At elementary, reviews mixed
At the elementary school, though, things are a little more difficult.
“It’s a new routine, a new system,” principal Justin Wasmuth said. “Growing pains is the best way you could put it.”
He said elementary students like having a choice of entrée, but aren’t yet used to the new way of choosing their lunches.
While the adjustment has been difficult for his younger students, he said he believes the transition will be beneficial in the long run.
“It’s going as well as I thought it would by now,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”