oracle_opinion_logo2-275x155Students should have access to culinary lunch meals and vending machines during lunchtime in order to eradicate cafeteria issues.

For the last few weeks, this school’s culinary program’s lunchtime sales have been stifled by a federal regulation which prevents sources besides the cafeteria from selling food to students during lunchtime. This agreement, however, allows the cafeteria to hold a monopoly over lunchtime food sales, which is unfair to hungry students.

“Any school with a culinary program or vending machines may not sell products of food or beverage (from) two hours before a lunch period to an hour after. That is the contract between the county and the schools,” said Student Nutrition Manager Sheryl Rabelo. Rabelo said that the contract exists because having other sources of food for sale detracts from the cafeteria’s business.

While this regulation may seem viable, it is a bit extreme considering culinary does not sell enough food to feed the school’s entire population. The cafeteria still earns the majority of the lunchtime profit, so what sort of threat does culinary really pose? Opponents may argue that it’s still a loss of money, but there are other less visible gains in allowing culinary to sell lunch: culinary students will be gaining the necessary sales experience for a culinary career. Since the program was designed to educate students for work in this field, it’s silly for education officials to take that away from students.

Another issue with the school’s cafeteria lunch is the tendency for certain options to run out by the time sixth period lunch rolls around. Some of the more popular entrees and a la carte items have all been sold before students in later lunches even get in line. If the school is unable to present these students with the same options as their peers who were luckily placed in an earlier lunch, an alternative, such as a meal prepared by culinary, should be available. This option would also reduce the possibility of the cafeteria from running out of certain meals for students.

Chef Philip Meola said that he was unwilling to comment on the issue at this time.

In addition to the culinary lunch issue, there is some conflict concerning the limited access to the vending machines. Due to the narrow window of opportunity to take advantage of the school’s vending machines, their presence on campus is insignificant. The machines, which return some profit to the school, are not maxmizing the amount of money that they could make.

If education officials are worried about competition from culinary students and vending machines, then perhaps they should spend more time focusing their efforts on improving the quality of the food that they are providing. Although one may argue that higher costs stand in the way, clearly some students are willing to pay more for a culinary lunch, so why wouldn’t they be willing to pay more for a higher-quality cafeteria lunch option? Another alternative is to have every student interested in purchasing a lunch from the school pre-order his or her entree. This would ensure that the school would not over-spend and would also allow for the vending machines to operate in conjunction with the cafeteria. Culinary would be able to sell food to students throughout the day, during any period they please, gaining the experience and profits that they need.

Although it’s only school, competition is the driving force behind quality products. Shouldn’t that hold true for high school meals as well?

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