End to free lunch changes student routines


Photo by Alessandro Marra

Cafeteria manager Stefanie Atwood is seen checking out students in the lunch line. Fewer students have been seen going to the cafeteria during lunch.

MCPS has taken away the privileges of free breakfast and lunch for all students, allowing free meals only for those who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS). During the pandemic, Congress had granted waivers to schools in order to meet the dietary needs of students, making their school day much more flexible.

The ability for all students to eat the same meals changes their attitudes throughout the rest of the school day. Not all students who took advantage of free lunch qualify for FARMS leaving many to find alternatives.

Senior James Phillips went through the transition from free lunch to having to pay once again.

“The change was annoying, from free lunch to costing money because now the line takes longer and the food is never that good. Also, it’s not like it’s better food for your money. It has made me go out for lunch more and if I do get lunch at school. I either get there super early or go in the middle of lunch, but I definitely have started going less this year,” Phillips said.

The cafeteria has seen a drastic change in the amount of students that come to get food since the change. Fewer and fewer kids go to the cafeteria everyday.

“There should be exceptions, free lunch forms should be filled out by students who feel they are eligible… The price is good, $3 for a lunch with all five components is much better than $7 for a slice of pizza from Flippin’,” cafeteria manager Stefanie Atwood said.

Students do recognize that lunch outside of school is much more expensive than cafeteria food. This creates the debate of whether buying cafeteria food or outside food is more worthy of your money.

“If I were a student at WJ, I’d eat out two days a week, and the rest eat inside at the cafeteria,” security team leader Anthony Williams said.

With longer lunches, students have also taken the opportunity to go out and purchase food off school grounds.

“There’s more students at G-Square and still a good amount of students in the building because we have such a big freshman class,” Williams said.