A sampling of Food of Thought lunch options. Photo credit: Nadira B. ’15
The clock strikes 12:05. Students make their way downhill, turning their backs on the chaos of the Cougar Café microwaves and the monotony of paper-bagged peanut butter sandwiches. Like ants, or perhaps pilgrims awaiting the words of an oracle, the students form a line snaking through the open doors of N6. What awaits them? The brave new world of College Prep’s pilot school lunch program: Food For Thought.
Founded in 1995 with an emphasis on nutrition and cost-effectiveness, Food for Thought Catering offers about 11 to 12 different meal options per day, each for a mere $5.30. Many College Prep students have wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity to do away with tradition in favor of convenience, flocking to order lunches from the catering service. Ronil S. (’18) and classmate Olivia K. explain that picking up lunch is easier for students who live far from school. “I live in San Francisco and if I order I don’t have to make my lunch in the morning,” says Olivia. Ronil adds “it’s easier than having your lunch take up space or having to carry it.” Sophomore Julia T. agrees that convenience plays a major role in her decision to order lunch, and says, “the cost is about the same” between buying lunch and bringing it from home. However, none of these three students rave about the taste of the meals, agreeing with Olivia’s statement that the taste of the food “depends on what you get.”
Some upperclassmen, however, are less inclined to give up taste for the sake of convenience. Junior Jessica G. says that, regardless of Food for Thought Catering’s commitment to fresh and healthy ingredients, the meals “look like warmed-up frozen food” and that “the packaging makes the food look unappealing.” Her classmate, Jane V., says that while she thinks “that it’s a good option if it’s late at night and you have nothing in the fridge, if I’m paying that much, I might as well bring something better from home.” Jane is one of many students whose mother prepares her lunch.
Regardless of taste, cost, or convenience, many students voice concerns over the lunch program not for what it offers but for what it has replaced. The establishment of Food for Thought at College Prep has meant an end to the beloved and traditional club food sales. Hannah K. (’16) is one of many students who miss the days when a student could by a delicious Vietnamese sandwich and boba, knowing that their money would support AAA or ITS Crew. Hannah says of the program, “I never think ahead enough to buy it the night before, and I miss being able to spontaneously add pizza to my lunch. I justified buying pizza because I knew I was supporting the clubs, but now that I’m not supporting clubs there’s no reason for me to buy lunch anymore.” AAA club leader Dana Z. (’16) says while she doesn’t miss the struggle of organizing lunch food sales, their absence may have consequences on the activities club members will be able to partake in next year. “We only make maybe a third of what we used to,” says Dana. She adds that she’s worried her club won’t be able to hold their traditional end-of-year Dim Sum meal if they can’t raise enough funds.
When examining students’ concerns regarding Food for Thought Catering at College Prep, it’s important to note that the program is in its early days and it may take a while for our community, especially upperclassmen, to adjust. However, it’s equally important to examine the concerns of the student body and to make the necessary changes, as I’m sure Dean Chabon will do in a few months or so. Because as much as we love not waking up fifteen minutes earlier than necessary to shove a sandwich into our already bursting backpacks, those Vietnamese sandwiches were amazing.