By: Kylie Radford
In recent months, many students have shared their concerns with the cafeteria food at Apex High School.
In terms of health and quality, the Wake County Menu shows the menu policies put in place to promote healthy meals, as well as offering many healthy substitutes such as fat-free milk. It also notes that the county often sources “ fresh and often local produce“. The WCPSS website states, “Our kitchens offer a variety of tasty, healthy breakfasts and lunches students can choose from every day. Menus are aligned with state and federal standards and our own WCPSS wellness policy. We oven-bake rather than fry foods and we serve items made with reduced fats, sodium and sugars. We offer fresh locally grown produce, whole grains and lower-calorie, right-sized snacks.”
However, a primary concern of students in terms of the cafeteria food is the lack of variety; specifically, the repeated occurrence of pizza as the primary lunch food. Freshman Sofía Segovia Pérez stated, “They serve us the same food every single day.” While the Wake County Menu lists out the variety of options for each day, many students feel that these options are rarely present at Apex High School. Junior Angie Mendoza stated, “I wish the lunch food would have more variety of things and better quality of them.”
Another concern among the student body is that there are not enough options for students. Student Batoul Sawas explained that the school could benefit from more dietary options, such as vegetarian choices. While it is almost impossible to cater to all dietary restrictions, many students with specific diets may feel unnoticed, especially students with food allergies, conditions or intolerances. It may be simple to suggest that these students simply pack a lunch, but ultimately food provided at school may be these students’ primary (or only) source of nutrition. Though not all restrictions are catered to, some steps have been taken by higher authorities to cater to some: the most prominent being options for those with peanut or tree nut allergies. Apex High School offers E.Z. Jammers- sandwich substitutes, which are specifically labeled as “Safe for School” due to being processed in a peanut and tree nut free facility. The Wake County menu outlines vegetarian options, but also notes that “All ‘Additional’ options are not available in all schools.” Furthermore, the WCPSS website highlights that, in terms of special diets accommodations can be made as ordered by a students health care provider with instructions to return an order form to their school’s Child Nutrition Manager. However, many are unaware of this policy, and may find it challenging.
Students are also concerned there is not always a sufficient quantity of food. Juniors Maria Praslova and Sarah Puertollano explained the devastation that arises when they go to the cafeteria to get pizza, and there is none left. Many students have highlighted that the cafeteria often runs out of pizza, leaving them with less-preferable options.
Freshman Omar Ansari shared his concern about the amount of food wasted due to the policy in which students must grab certain items when going through the lunch line. He said, “I feel like we waste a lot of food because a lot of kids don’t eat the fruit or milk, and just throw it away.”
Another student shared his concerns about the long lines in the cafeteria. There are two distinct lines, which take a significant amount of time to get through; this leaves limited time for students to eat their food and socialize before returning to class. He wishes for “more lines, so that it’s quicker.”
On a more lighthearted note, sophomore Lucy Liu very adamantly added that she wants the school to bring back fruit cups.
Ultimately, decisions regarding the cafeteria options are out of the hands of the student body. Higher authorities must evaluate which concerns are valid and viable, as well as what can be done to aid them. However, the WCPSS website offers the Meal Viewer website as a resource, in which “menus are available” and you can “Choose menu items based on allergens, view nutrients and carbohydrate count for each menu item, add nutrients for meals eaten, [and] submit ratings on your favorite items.”