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crunch time Alexis madlang, skyler glenn, gabriella herrera, hayden turner

There are more moving parts to a lunch period than the student can see, from janitors patrolling the cafeteria for trash, the cooks that give students food and administrators that make sure the lunchroom is under control.

To add to the technicalities of lunch, COVID raised many questions for school administration as to how it would be executed. With CDC guidelines recommending six feet of social distancing, the lunch room turned into a game of tetras, figuring out where and how to safely seat students. Administrators designated the auxiliary gym for a secondary dining hall, more lunch tables across campus and socially distanced lunch tables. Adding to the new lunch format, they added red tape to tables and benches to social distance students.

Along with these moving parts, the United States Department of Agriculture has funded free lunch to schools nationwide since Sept. 2020, and plans to continue reimbursing schools for the 2021-22 school year. This has allowed for many students that have not had the ability to have a balanced meal in previous years to do so in a time like this.

Free from food struggles

Waking up early to pack your lunchbox. Stopping at McDonald’s before class for a snack. Buying multiple meals from the school cafeteria. All of these things, though once ordinary, have become a luxury that many students do not have. Financial problems have become more than common because of coronavirus, and getting food has become a day-to-day struggle.

To help with this, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began offering free breakfast and lunch to all students under 18 in September of 2020. Meals are offered in the morning, during midday break and at lunch. Additionally, various drive-thru locations have been established to provide food to remote students.

“[Free lunch] has given the opportunity for students who normally wouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch with us to come and eat,” dining manager Erin Basilo said.

Red Apple Dining, Seminole County Public Schools’ food service company, offers additional meal benefits for families who require support beyond free meals. Menus are released each month, along with nutrition information, allowing students to plan ahead.

“Knowing what’s in the lunch line each day helps me make decisions about what I eat,” freshman Kenzie Roberts said. “It makes it easier for me to eat healthy.”

The free lunch offering is expected to be renewed for the coming school year. Principal Robert Frasca believes that this is a wonderful opportunity for all families that have taken a hard hit financially.

“You have to remember that there are a lot of students in the country that their only healthy meal is at school,” Frasca said. “The fact that all students can get it for free… is important.”