The Choice of Lunches

April 28, 2022

One lunch: increases social connections, allows friendships to flourish

One day, during the two-period lunch era, my friends texted one another asking: “Which lunch do you have?” The responses: seven “late” and only one “early.” Sadly, the person with early lunch ate alone, which no one should suffer on a frequent basis, especially anyone with mental health challenges. Studies have shown that eating alone can lead to depression, a blockage of blood supply to the heart, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, per The Guardian

I’ve looked forward to the return of the one lunch period ever since the two-period lunch schedule was implemented. Everyone is in the dining hall together, and that is exactly how lunch should be spent. 

Lunch is the only time of day when you are able to interact for an extended period of time with all of your classmates. Perhaps someone has two tests after lunch and wants to be with friends to help calm the nerves – eating lunch together allows friends to build closer connections and to catch up with one another. As a result of the return to the one lunch period, students do not have to wonder if they will be having lunch with their friends, but rather can look forward to sharing the 40-minute period all together.

Masters Interested In Sharing and Helping (MISH) had been meeting over Zoom this year at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings, because the two lunch periods made it impossible for everyone to meet. The Zoom meeting was the best alternative, but still, not everyone was available to attend; however, meeting during lunch allows for everyone to participate in discussions. Executive Committee also had switched their meeting time to Wednesday mornings during X-Band, and like MISH, attendance was consistently lower in comparison to the lunch meetings. The one lunch period has allowed both groups to resume their meetings in-person at a common time, which has increased the number of participants and contributors to these important discussions.  

The dining hall is once again filled with 500 students everyday, and while this has lengthened lunch lines, the staggered lunch times allow for less crowding than did the original schedule from two years ago; and while two lunch periods made lines shorter and chairs easier to find, as the weather becomes nicer, one common lunch allows students and faculty to eat lunch together outside of the dining hall, either under the tent or on the quad. For students who do not share many classes with their friends, lunch is a valuable period during the school day, where friends are all able to interact. The increased amount of social connection that results from eating with others is more important than standing in a lunch line for a few extra minutes.

The switch back to the one lunch period has required the dining hall staff to manage the entire upper school lunch all at once, and while the transition has certainly been an adjustment, it was inevitable according to Dining Hall General Manager Lee Bergelson. 

He said, “It’s definitely more work to manage all of the plates, it has to be washed, it has to be stocked, it has to be brought back and forth, but it’s something obviously we knew was going to come back at some point and so just like anything, it becomes part of the normal process.” 

Thankfully, the days of students having to dine alone, resorting to scrolling through Instagram on their phones for company and entertainment while counting down the minutes to their next class, are gone. I think increased socialization and ease of scheduling meetings far outweigh the longer lines, and that one lunch period is the best option.

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Two lunches: cleaner and less crowded

I sat in the dining hall with eager eyes watching my eager eyed classmates flood the almost unbreathable, cramped space, reuniting with their friends after the dreaded 90 minutes they were apart. I realized I suddenly needed water. So as one would do, I went to get water, leaving my backpack beside my chair rather than on it – rookie mistake. I returned to find not only my own, but all six chairs around my table gone. In the scant three minutes I was gone, some other students stole all of our chairs. 

Before Covid there was one lunch for the entire high school which happened to overlap with the middle school as well. The dining hall was flooded with faculty, students and the staff rushing to the hot bar before the line stretched too long. When we returned from Covid, two lunches were implemented to restrict contact between students – and in the process the problems with one lunch were revealed: crowds, messes, and inconvenient. 

With over 500 students and faculty eating in a single 50-minute period, the staff are challenged to provide the cleanest, safest space. 

With two lunches, the dining hall staff can ensure everything goes according to plan: the silverware cleaned, the tables sanitized, the food ready to be served. In addition, the staff would be able to use the 30-minute grace period to sanitize all necessary supplies. 

During the single lunch period, the hot bar, the most popular station, is flooded with lines stretching across the entire room. The staff are continually refilling the food stations. Going back to two lunches would give the staff time to prepare more food and guarantee there is enough for all the hungry community members. 

With three meals every day and the entire community to feed, the dining hall staff are invariably hard at work. From sanitizing tables and dishware,  to making mouth-watering meals, they are not allotted many breaks. Students often carelessly leave messy plates and tables, adding even more pressure to their jobs. With the new return of the reusable silverware, returning to the  one lunch schedule has caused a major stress on them. 

If two lunches were to return, students would be able to have a more leisurely break without the fighting of chairs and tables and the staff would have a longer, more meaningful break. 

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