Paying the Price : Losing Free Lunch

Jackson Mallory and Lauren Trivers

Last year, school lunch was free for everyone, but this year is a different story. On June 30th, 2022, the waivers for the Child Nutrition programs that pledged free breakfast and lunch for all students expired. This left students throughout the United States with a decision to make: pay for lunch or bring their own. The program began in 2020 in an effort to help families in the pandemic as food insecurity rose, especially for families with children.
Many students took advantage of the protocol, and used it to grab a free breakfast or lunch, while others never purchased a lunch, free or at cost. No matter what an individual does for lunch, the program has had an effect on themselves or their community. Students like Freshman Charlotte Barber used to get free lunches during the last two school years.
“I liked getting lunch for free, and I think they should give everyone free lunch because some people can’t afford it,” said Barber.
Fewer lunches are purchased as the lunch prices resurface, however; there are still people that continue to purchase school lunches, despite the change. The price for lunch doesn’t include appetizers, meaning the price for lunch is doubled and affects students like Junior, John Wansing.
“It was great because you could get drinks and snacks for the price of like two dollars and now it’s four dollars since you have to pay for lunch,” said Wansing.
Many individuals, including Wansing, purchase appetizers. They are a great addition to the cafeteria and are essential for those who don’t have a lot of time for lunch. Many students lack time to eat because of the crowds and distance from the cafeteria, including Sophomore Annika Hunter.
“I love both, but I think the convenience of having school lunch is nice, but the line is too long and it costs money. I don’t have enough time to eat school lunch if I’m waiting in line. So I prefer to bring my lunch,” said Hunter.
For some it’s not about the price of the lunch, it’s just about having enough time to eat and talk to friends. As students get older they are given more freedom in the lunchroom. This brings joy to the students when they know they can sit anywhere. Freshman, Clint Olson shares his lunchroom experience.
“Elementary was very controlled and we weren’t given a lot of freedom and had assigned seats. Middle school was less controlled, but you couldn’t do anything. In high school you’re allowed to do what you want and sit where you want,” said Olson.
Lunch can be a stressful part of the day for some. It can get very loud and chaotic in the lunchroom. With the lunchroom atmosphere being stressful a thing students shouldn’t have to worry about is not being able to pay for lunch.
“It kinda stinks because you have to watch what you buy and some kids can’t eat because their parents forget to pay for lunch,” said Wansing.
Students no longer getting free lunch has affected them in different ways. Students must be able to eat lunch without having to worry about prices. When lunch was free it was less stressful for students, but now many students have to think about how much food they are buying. Overall, the no longer free lunch is a challenge for some, and for others it’s about watching prices.