Cafeteria complaints

A plausible approach to remedy the crowdedness in the cafeteria.

Cramped. Crowded. Claustrophobic. These words come to mind when describing the state of the LM cafeteria every single day. At the start of the 2021 school year, underclassmen did not have Lunch & Learn, allowing for a staggering of students’ buying of lunches throughout the period. Advisory was used as a bridge to connect the transition of the allotted lunch times to Lunch & Learn and provided leeway for the cafeteria to serve students in smaller groups at a time. Now, with all classes granted Lunch & Learn privileges, an influx of students pour into the cafeteria during first lunch to buy food.

The numerous students crammed in close proximity to one another during the first lunch is problematic. First, it removes the efficiency of buying lunches entirely. Students squeeze their way through packs of people in order to grab an item. Second, the crowded spaces lead to more jostling and pushing, which is something that is frequent during the beginning of first lunch. Supporting this, Ella Brenner ’24, noted, “One time I was going to grab my fries with a rush of people nearby, and I was pushed which made me drop them all over the floor.”  Third, the surge of students results in long lines, which blocks the drink section of the cafeteria. This provides even more difficulty as not only does the line obstruct students’ ability to buy drinks, but also leads to student crossing through the lines and creating more confusion.

The multitude of students confined in such a small area also creates an unfair challenge to our hardworking staff. Food constantly ends up on the ground with plates and trays bumping into nearby students. Custodians are forced to clean this mess, a mess that could have been prevented if a more orderly system was put in place. In addition, the flood of students induces strain on our cafeteria workers. The sudden influx of students creates a situation where it is hard for them to keep up with demand, leading to more students waiting on food to be prepared. This too can be alleviated by a fix to the system.

Another crucial reason to amend the current system is for the purpose of managing COVID-19 risk. With the mask mandates recently lifted in our school district, the risk of transmission among students spikes with so many people packed in a small and poorly ventilated area. If one student harbors the virus, it is likely to spread to many other students or staff nearby. The dense student crowd therefore fails to uphold our schools commitment to safety. 

A new cafeteria system | Graphic by Emma Liu ’22/Staff

So what could be done to remedy these challenges surrounding the current situation? There are workable solutions to resolve these issues. The easiest approach would be to directly break up the times that students are allowed to buy food, mimicking the results of the initial system at the start of the year. For example, upperclassmen would have the first half of the first lunch period to buy food, swapping with underclassmen on a schedule. After the first half of the first lunch, students would be able to purchase food from the cafeteria. This way, the rush of students would be broken up by only allowing some groups of students to buy at certain times. This would solve the problem of a cramped environment, and would reduce the pushing and shoving that many students experience. It would lessen the pressure on the cashiers to fulfill all the orders at once and eliminate the threat of a breakout of COVID-19 within our school system. For the benefit of students, teachers, and staff, lunches at LM should be broken up into allotted times for the remainder of this school year. These times would allow for students to buy food in a safe manner while preventing many of the problems that occur on a daily basis with the current system.

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