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Concord High School students stray from cafeteria food

  • Concord High School students walk back from Pizza Fina, across the street from the school, during a lunch period, April 15, 2013. Many students choose to buy pizza there and bring it bck to the cafeteria to eat it.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School students walk back from Pizza Fina, across the street from the school, during a lunch period, April 15, 2013. Many students choose to buy pizza there and bring it bck to the cafeteria to eat it.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Kendra Galloway (left) and Ashley Watterston share a lunch as Danny Cassanova dips a french fry in mustard in the Concord High School cafeteria, April 15, 2013. "I share every lunch we have." says Galloway of the items bought in the cafeteria. "I don't really eat lunch, we split it."<br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Kendra Galloway (left) and Ashley Watterston share a lunch as Danny Cassanova dips a french fry in mustard in the Concord High School cafeteria, April 15, 2013. "I share every lunch we have." says Galloway of the items bought in the cafeteria. "I don't really eat lunch, we split it."
    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • A lunch of a chicken sandwich and french fries waits to be eaten at the Concord High School cafeteria, April 15, 2013. The Concord High School is weighing privatizing the lunch service.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    A lunch of a chicken sandwich and french fries waits to be eaten at the Concord High School cafeteria, April 15, 2013. The Concord High School is weighing privatizing the lunch service.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School students walk back from Pizza Fina, across the street from the school, during a lunch period, April 15, 2013. Many students choose to buy pizza there and bring it bck to the cafeteria to eat it.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Kendra Galloway (left) and Ashley Watterston share a lunch as Danny Cassanova dips a french fry in mustard in the Concord High School cafeteria, April 15, 2013. "I share every lunch we have." says Galloway of the items bought in the cafeteria. "I don't really eat lunch, we split it."<br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • A lunch of a chicken sandwich and french fries waits to be eaten at the Concord High School cafeteria, April 15, 2013. The Concord High School is weighing privatizing the lunch service.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

On any given day, a steady stream of Concord High School students will make the short walk down to Pizza Fina to purchase lunch. They’ll buy sandwiches, slices of pizza and french fries – all options that are available in the school’s cafeteria.

Back inside the school, trays of cold cut wraps, chicken patties and pizza slices dot some tables. But just as many, if not more, students eat food they’ve brought from home. Some seniors don’t eat anything at all, waiting for their free period when they can leave to go get food at Dos Amigos Burritos, McDonalds or other area restaurants.

There’s always been a mix of students who buy school lunch and those who don’t, but the number of students purchasing lunch is noticeably down this year, said Fran Wyatt, head cook at Concord High.

“It’s been happening over the years, you lose a few more then a few more,” she said. “But this year we’ve seen it go down quite a bit more than usual.”

District administrators have cited declining participation as one reason for exploring privatization of food services, saying private companies may have better resources to market school lunch to kids and may operate more efficiently. Business Administrator Jack Dunn said he could not provide concrete numbers on lunch purchases at this time, but he is working on analyzing and comparing the numbers.

Concord High’s “open campus” policy says any student may purchase lunch at Pizza Fina but must bring it right back to campus. Teachers monitor the area to make sure students aren’t going to a nearby gas station and convenience store or getting in their cars. Seniors who meet certain standards also get “senior privileges,” which means they can leave campus during any free periods, sometimes for as much as two hours.

Students who weren’t eating school lunch this week shared several reasons why: They don’t like the options, they think it tastes bad and they’d rather choose their own food. Several students who do buy school lunch, however, said it’s cheaper than purchasing food at Pizza Fina and more convenient because they don’t have time to make a lunch in the morning.

Senior Aidan Beausoliel said he rarely ever buys lunch at school. He has senior privileges on Wednesdays and Fridays, and said he will usually leave and eat lunch at Boloco, Dos Amigos Burritos, Panera Bread or elsewhere. Students who can’t leave campus sometimes give money to the ones who can to bring back food, he said.

He and several seniors sitting with him said they don’t like the food offered in the cafeteria. He also thinks he can get more food than a school lunch provides elsewhere.

“The food isn’t like any healthier (elsewhere), it’s just that you can get more of it,” he said.

Senior Lexi Erickson gets out of school at 1 p.m. most days and waits to eat lunch at home. If she buys anything in the cafeteria, it will be a snack such as a bag of crackers or chips. Eating at home has more to do with convenience than the quality of the cafeteria food, she said.

“It’s not that bad here, I’d just rather eat at home,” she said.

Every day, the high school

cafeteria sells pizza, tossed salads, made-to-order deli sandwiches and wraps, chicken patties and pretzels, alongside other options. There is usually either a hot dog or hot sub special each day and a pasta or other special dish on Wednesdays, said Wyatt, the head cook. They also have to offer fruit or juice with every meal, per federal guidelines. Wyatt said that like Erickson, lots of students just purchase a snack each day.

“They come in for the junk food. They want the chips, the Cheez-Its, the Pop Tarts, the drinks. Oh yeah, they spend a fortune on it,” she said.

Senior Amy Morin said she hasn’t purchased lunch at school since freshman year. She likes to bring her own lunch so she has more choice.

“I don’t like the options,” she said. “I don’t want to have a chicken patty every day.”

Variety isn’t an issue for freshman Jack Philbrick, who said he buys two slices of pizza almost every day from Pizza Fina. Why go across the street for something he can get in the cafeteria?

“It’s better,” he said. He’s one of several students who said they don’t buy the school pizza because it’s too greasy.

Freshman Lexi Fowler also said she goes across the street for lunch more often than she buys it from the cafeteria.

But for several students, buying school lunch is the most convenient and cheapest option. Sophomore Thomas O’Brien said he doesn’t have time in the morning to make a lunch, and eating at school is cheaper than going across the street every day. He said he gets a chicken patty almost every day because none of the other options taste very good.

Seniors Billy Taylor and Shawn Woodworth were eating cold cut wraps from the cafeteria Monday. Taylor said he doesn’t bring his own lunch because he’s lazy. Woodworth said he typically buys lunch three days a week, then purchases it elsewhere during free periods on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Several cooks said they suggested closing down campus during lunch to administrators when privatization was first floated, but Superintendent Chris Rath said that wasn’t an option. Closing campus wouldn’t stop seniors from eating elsewhere during free periods. But it would mean more underclassmen would be purchasing school lunch, Wyatt said. Sometimes the school will close campus for the day if the students leave a big mess outside, and it makes a huge different in the cafeteria.

“When they close campus, oh my God, we’re swamped,” Wyatt said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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