Cobb County has been giving out free lunch kits for students since September 14th, 2020 as an effort to aid families of students who have been financially struggling ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Last year, parents were able to pick up a week’s worth of food at any Cobb County’s schools once a week during the school year and over the summer break. These kits contained breakfast and lunch items that are conveniently prepared to be reheated into meals that would be typically served in a school lunchroom setting, making it easier for parents working as essential employees to feed their children. Now, students have been back in classrooms, hungrier than ever.
Most students believe that complimentary breakfast and lunch meals are a good idea since families now don’t have to worry about paying for meals at school because they’re affordable with no cost. One of those students is Helen Stadler (12), a volleyball athlete.
“I believe the free school lunches are beneficial because it helps students who can’t afford lunches, especially during these hard times with covid still ramping,” claimed Stadler. “They can help [families] afford brainfood to help students learn more.”
School lunches are generally healthy to provide students with the nutrients they need to fuel their bodies and minds to be more attentive in the learning environment. However, the pandemic has affected many students’ abilities to learn. Last year, virtual learning gave students a more challenging time to pay attention and retain information in class. Without the right nutrition, kids would be having a harder time getting back on track.
Although, despite the financial and health benefits, many kids agree that the food quality has diminished over time. Those kids, like Jason Schaag (11) and Stacey Deoliveria (9) believe that the county should improve most of the options served at school.
“They should make the pizza less greasy,” criticized Schaag. “and not have dry apples.”
“It’s usually the same thing,” said Stacey, referring to the school lunch menu. “I’ve only been in the pizza line, so the pizzas are really oily, and the cheese falls off of the dough.”
Another student like Egan Donley (12), a student
in engineering, shares the same values with Schaag and Deoliveira regarding the pizza.
“The current school lunch menu is very stale. We get the same stuff every week, and it’s all ‘mid.” expresses Egan, showing his distaste in the consistent rotation of the menu. “The pizza: we get pepperoni and cheese and then some random option every day. The nachos: they keep switching between chips and- I’m going to be real, the only thing worth getting there is the ground beef, because everything else is like, you don’t know where it came from. You don’t know if that chicken was actually from a chicken.”
Students have said that the quality and taste of this year’s school lunch have exponentially downgraded since 2020 due to the economy’s downfall during the pandemic.
Although the school lunches are free, there’s a considerable cost towards funding them. Mr. Matthew White, the economics teacher at Wheeler, provides insights on the funding towards free lunches for students.
“School lunches, generally speaking, are subsidized through money from the Department of Education and- I want to say through the Department of Agriculture too, but I want to say that the reason free lunches are being offered to everyone is through covid stimulus money.” says White.
With the nationwide labor shortage, Cobb County schools–especially Wheeler–are experiencing a scarcity of lunch workers and janitors to provide for the students at school. Could perhaps the reason why the school lunch quality has diminished because of the lack of workers? The school lunch has and forever will leave an exciting aftertaste for students who’ve had the genuine school lunch experience, especially during this pandemic.