Munch on This


Credit: Maura McGlarry

Students examine the lunch as they walk into the dining hall. Some days the hot lunch is not as popular, in which there are almost no lines at lunch.

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but really, it’s lunch. Lunch is an essential part of the day as the food helps students and faculty stay fueled for their classes and after-school activities. The FLIK team that provides dining services to Hackley has had to face many challenges over the past few years. From COVID-19 to the resulting supply chain issues and now changes to the schedule, they have had to continually adapt.

The FLIK staff plans the lunch menu in order to include factors such as student favorites, aligning with cultural holidays, and variation. Students understand the issues in terms of the availability of food but have expressed discontent with the food being provided for them at lunch. While students appreciate the move to include more eclectic items, they miss the classics.

In addition to supply chain issues, the FLIK team and Hackley have had to face many adversities over the past few years.

One of the biggest changes with the new schedule is that more people come to lunch at the same time. In the old schedule, the influx of students was more spread out, so there was more flexibility in when the staff could replenish the food. Under the new schedule, the time frame in which they have to refill the food is a lot more condensed.

The most challenging part is replenishing the salad bar. This change has also forced the kitchen staff to have more pre-preparation behind the scenes, as they have to replenish in bulk rather than in more spread-out increments which they were able to do in the past.

This year is the first year that school has felt the most like pre-covid circumstances since the spring of 2020. One of the biggest changes from 2020 to now is the increase in the amount of food consumption. This enabled FLIK to make new menu items as they were limited in options during the pandemic. Bobby Aldridge, Director of Operations and Campus Planning, said that the 2022 school year feels the most like pre-covid conditions. During the COVID-19 period, everything was prepackaged and there was less food consumed as people were less likely to come back for seconds. After COVID-19 there was an increase in the amount of food being consumed, and now it feels like it is back to the pre-covid quota. The limits of prepackaged food during covid encouraged FLIK to be more creative and allowed FLIK to make new menu items that they could not during the pandemic.

There are also a lot of supply-chain issues. The FLIK team has had to plan out the menu two to three weeks in advance to prepare. Sometimes some of the food they order is not there and sometimes the manufacturers substitute items. The FLIK team is always adapting its menu depending on what shows up on the food truck.

“It is always a surprise to see what comes off the truck,” said Mr. Aldridge. They are trying to work with the vendors to mitigate the number of things not showing up; however, there are supply issues all over the world so it is difficult to be able to predict what will happen. It is understandable and they just have to adapt to the circumstances of the world.

In 2018 there was an assessment of the health and wellness at Hackley. When the lunch staff is planning out the menu, they make sure to align with the health and wellness standards that were put forth.

The planning of the menu for this school year began over the summer. Dan Lynch, Executive Chef, and Mike Yanez, Director of Food Service, mapped out the menu and tried to include a variety of foods. They worked with Cyndy Jean, Assistant Head of School for Community and Inclusion, to make sure different cultures and ethnicities are represented in the menu schedule.

They also considered the surveys from students and teachers about what their favorite meals are. The kitchen staff also tries to align their menus with different heritage celebration months.

Although FLIK is facing many challenges, students are not universally happy with the food being provided for them at lunch.

Junior Jakob Wade is not content with meatless Mondays.

“Students need protein for after-school activities and meatless Monday does not provide the nutrients that the students need in order to succeed in their activities,” he said.

Some students commented that sometimes the hot lunch is too complex, and would like it better if it were more simple.

“Lunch would be better if there were items that you would have on a kids’ menu,”  junior Ian Randall said.

“Lunch is too obscure and I would like it to be more simple,”  junior Ber Bennett said.

Students said that some of their favorite meals are chicken tenders, breakfast for lunch, quesadillas, chicken and waffles, orange chicken, mac and cheese, and non-whole wheat pasta. Ber said that he makes paninis pretty often and also lamented that the panini machine should be cleaned more often.

Junior Tommy Troso is gluten-free and has limited options for what he can eat for lunch. He commented about the unsatisfactory options that he is provided with:

“While there are gluten-free options, they are unsatisfactory,” he said, “There are only two options for gluten-free people: plain grilled chicken, and penne pasta with red sauce. Not only are the gluten-free options extremely limited, but it is also an inconvenient process. You need to walk into the kitchen and stand there until a member of the lunch staff comes to help you. Even then, it takes up to ten minutes to actually get the plate of food in your hands. At this point, I have given up on the gluten-free lunch options and just go to the salad bar instead.”