This article was written by Carson Beard who is a senior in the journalism class at U32.
Addison Proulx, a senior at U-32, has always loved collecting.This year he has taken up the hobby of collecting a new item at school: the new dried cranberries being given out as a fruit.
Addison’s collection has grown to over 300 packs. He even collected over 40 in one day, as a personal best.
“I think collecting cranberries is just in my blood,” he says.
Addison’s harmless collecting of the cranberries is part of a bigger issue at U-32. COVID has changed the lunch system for the past two years. With the support of government aid, lunch and breakfast is free as long as it is accompanied with milk and a fruit.
The free lunch plan incentivises kids to eat healthy meals, but with these guidelines, there seems to be more waste than normal. The powerhouse of the fruit options, dried cranberries, are no exception.
Students passing through the lunch line are presented with apples, bananas, oranges, or sometimes other canned fruit items. With the free lunch program one of these options must be picked, and the dried cranberries have become the most popular one.
But how many of the cranberries are students actually eating ?
At any given day you can find cranberries in the halls, smushed into the ground, and towering in the share box. Cranberries are present in almost every setting.
One teacher, Christine Fitch, was surprised to find the students filling two drawers in her classroom with the cranberry packets.
“I think it’s funny,” she said. “It’s not harmful and it’s just a good sense of humor.” This group of students have stored them since the start of the year, and don’t plan to stop.
Brian Fischer is the director of the U-32 food service. With the free lunch plan this year, Fischer said the school needed to find a supply of fruit. Their decision to get cranberries this year was a last resort. Due to COVID, the cafeteria really struggled to get lots of other foods, even things like apples and bananas are difficult to get. In previous years Zeezee fruits have been the go-to, but with COVID, like many other foods, Zeezee’s fruits were in short supply.
”It’s a really touchy situation,” Fischer said. The cafeteria staff turned to a new fruit source, and even with pushback to not buy them, the cafeteria decided to go with the cranberries.
This year the cranberries have been found all over the school. The wasted food is part of a larger issue in the cafeteria. They’re having an understaffing problem, and to add to this, because of the new free lunch system, the amount of students that are eating school lunch and breakfast has almost doubled.
The cafeteria has especially been struggling with the waste clean up. Brain says there is “no flexibility” with the guidelines that they have to follow for buying food. When whole grain breads, pastas, and frozen untasty vegetables aren’t desirable to students, they dump them into compost buckets.
For students, though, the cranberries are more than just a new fruit. Whether students like it or not they’re here at U-32 and don’t look like they’ll leave anytime soon. “We tried them in the kitchen,” Fischer says, “and we like them.”