By Norma Fayad, Haneen Hamid and Kerstin Eitapence
NHS Greyhound Staff
Last year the federal government changed all public school menu requirements. A year later, Naugatuck High School students and staff have mixed feelings about these changes.
Many people say they like the school lunch and wouldn’t change a thing while others have a more negative reaction and want healthier choices.
The high school renovation, slated to be complete in 2016, will include changed to the cafeteria. School Principal Jan Saam said that the cafe itself is going to have a small lounge, modeled to resemble a diner, and it will be open to all the students. But there is a catch: students will need to earn the privilege of eating there. Saam is still in the process of deciding how students will earn entry to the special space.
The café redesign may also include benches outside where students can eat during their lunch period.
English teacher Edward Decosta remarked, “I love it” when asked about school lunch. The chicken wraps and salads would be “nicer” if the chicken was real chicken and not pieces of chicken patty. But, he acknowledge, this would cost more money.
English Dept. Head Amy Stewert said that all she eats from the cafe is the garden salad and she gets the cucumber and yogurt side dish to use as her dressing. When asked if she would change anything, she said, “I would definitely buy more varieties of lunch if they had an all organic section.”
Teachers aren’t the only ones with opinion about lunch.
Sophomore Deena Aljamal said, “This milk is yucky. I hate the school milk. Some people said that it’s expired. So I just don’t drink it.”
Aljamal also said that she usually gets salads and pizza. When offered, she prefers the buffalo chicken or the Caeser salad. “The fried dough is good, but my mom makes it better.”
Junior Scott Millette said, “The chicken patty is so nasty. Real chicken would be so much better.” Millette usually gets hot lunch and he does like the milk, preferably chocolate.
But the café is also struggling with renovation issues. The kitchen will not receive any new equipment after the work is completed. The main cook, Jackie Evans, said, “There will nothing renovated in the kitchen, even though it would make preparing food faster and easier. It’s not happening.”
Food Service Director Kate Murphy said that the cafeteria is also working with “guest chefs,” who come in to prepare special lunches. Last year, a chef who specialized in Japanese cuisine created specials for students. This is not an easy task as chefs need to be paid in advance and specialty food items need to be ordered. But students really seem to like it, and she is working to arrange more “guest chef” meals at the high school.
She also added that she open to any suggestions, but students must remember that the cafeteria has to follow federal regulations about school lunches.
Another issue with the café is the pricing for teachers. Staff have to pay a dollar more. Student lunches cost $2.75 while teacher lunches run about $ 3.50. Preparation of the food for the three lunch waves starts eight o’clock in the morning. Pizzas are made fresh, except for the cheese and pepperoni, but the chicken patties and burgers are frozen.
According to Evans, the hardest days for the cafe are nacho and taco days and fried dough days because they take the most time to prepare.