Slepicka explains narrowed school lunch options

Junior Jack Edwards is filling his tacos with lettuce from the salad bar. Edwards’ favorite school lunch is mac ‘n cheese.

Yutan students have noticed a change recently while walking through the lunch line. There is now only one lunch option as opposed to the previous two. This change is leaving many students wondering why.

“The entire time I’ve been in school there have always been two options,” freshman Jenna Benjamin said. “I don’t understand why there is only one now.”

Food service director Mary Slepicka clarified that there was a very specific reason behind the change, however.

“The main reason behind my choice to temporarily go to one entree offering daily in November was to help my high school kitchen staff find a balance between food excess and shortages,” said Slepicka. 

Slepicka explained that because many students do not sign up for the correct lunch option in the morning, the kitchen staff has a hard time trying to figure out how much food to prepare. For that reason, it becomes much more hit-or-miss regarding seconds availability and leftovers. 

“For example, the staff prepares 30 extra seconds for the grade 10-12 lunch daily.  When 15 more kids in that lunchtime eat that didn’t sign up for lunch the first period, there are only 15 extra seconds,” said Slepicka. 

Getting the right count during first period is very important because the kitchen staff knows students are interested in seconds but also needs to take the cost of making these extra meals into consideration.

Junior Courtney Stevens is getting her tacos from the lunch line. Stevens eats school lunch when she enjoys the meal being served.

“They are trying to be financially smart by not overpreparing food,” Slepicka said. “With the economic state of the world these past couple of years, it is very disheartening when food overages get thrown away.”

Finding the middle point where everyone can be happy and an appropriate amount of food is prepared is Slepicka’s objective.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were providing three entree options daily, having some extras on the salad bar, like macaroni and potato salad and fluffs. We had added some Smart Snacks in the lunch line. This allowed students to purchase extra drinks and snacks. There was G2 Gatorade, Snapple, bottled water, and some chips and snack foods,” Slepicka said.

That variety was appreciated by the students even though it may no longer be feasible.

“I feel like it was mandatory for them to minimize the food options because of the lunch count inconsistency,” Benjamin said. “Overall from a student’s point of view, I don’t like it because I enjoyed having those additional options.”

There is a promising chance of a second lunch choice returning once the day-to-day lunch count accuracy is higher.

“My goal, once the daily count is more accurate, is to add the 2nd and potentially 3rd entree daily as well as Smart Snacks,” Slepicka said.