This article was written by Allie Bourgeois, a student in the U-32 Journalism class.
“It was certainly a time to be alive,” said Peter Cioffi, a U32 senior.
Cioffi continued, “There was a sandwich line and a salad line and you could get meatball subs every day. You could get a sandwich on red hen bread and bacon every Thursday. There were three different kinds of mayo, you could get avocado, there was salami… Take me back.”
Today’s lunch – Panini with tomato soup and salads with U32-grown lettuce
10:25 AM · May 17, 2018 (photo courtesy @Bistro32 on Twitter)
Now, although the school provides free lunches to many more students, there is definitely less excitement surrounding the matter.
“I’d say that they’re a little less than mediocre most of the time, but sometimes there are pretty good ones,” said Baker Beauchamp (freshman).
“Sometimes they’re good, but most of the time they are not very good,” said Cavan Farrell (freshman).
“They’re bad,” said Ally Holmes.
For the past few years, the school has received state funding in order to provide free lunches. Right now, they provide around 600 meals a day. Three years ago, when the sandwich bar was in action, they served around 210 meals. This was with eight staff members. Currently, there are four.
A salad from the salad bar (photo courtesy @Bistro32 on Twitter)
“It’s a lot more lunches and I have a lot less staff so I’m very limited on what I can serve,” said Brian Fischer, the director of food service and nutrition.
These staffing issues stemmed from two things. Two of his employees left because of the work environment during Covid; the other two were laid off by the school board for a Reduction in Force.
A Reduction in Force is when a company reduces the number of employees and their positions are permanently eliminated.
With so few people working in the kitchen, each role is important.
“We’ve been down two people for the last two days. Yesterday there were only two of us. That’s been pretty tough,” said David Brigham, a cook who has worked here for two and a half years. “We have to do it all ourselves as two people, which is a difficult situation.”
Because of the understaffed kitchen, lunch opportunities have taken a hit.
“We can’t open up everything the kids would like. We’re not doing snacks because we just don’t have enough people,” said David.
Last semester, students in the U32 Work Experience program decided to take lunchtime matters into their own hands.
The program was started by senior Nolan Lyford in collaboration with RISE coordinator Tony Snow. It brought students into the kitchen during the first three bands of the day to help with meal preparation. The hope was to reinstate the salad/sandwich bar through Nutrislice, however, it did not catch on and wasn’t continued.
Ordering slips used by students to preorder sandwiches and salads (photo courtesy @Bistro32 on Twitter)
“We didn’t even increase our meal count. And we only made an additional 20 sandwiches a day,” said Brian.
Brian says that students will not be allowed back in the kitchen.
“It’s too frustrating. I love students and I love working with [them but] because of school schedules, it wasn’t consistent enough. I need consistency,” said Brian. “If you’re going to be here for band one, I need somebody here for band one Monday through Friday.”
He says he doesn’t have a suggestion for how students can help, and that the future is grim for those wishing for the old lunch options to come back.
“The sandwich bar is never coming back,” said Brian. “The money that I get from the state is not enough to fund that. Not to mention the fact that I need three more staff members in order to make it happen, [and] I haven’t been able to hire anyone.”
The school receives a reimbursement of $4.65 per meal. The cost of labor is $3.39 per meal. That leaves $1.26 left over for the actual food.
“Turkey breast alone right now is $5 a pound,” said Brian.
“Turkey dinner”; One of the current school lunches
Making free custom sandwiches for everyone just isn’t profitable, and charging for lunches isn’t an option.
“The main reason why we offer free meals [is] because of equity; so those students who do not have any money won’t be ostracized because they can only get the [free] lunch,” said Brian.
With the costs and the current number of employees, Brian stresses that “[The sandwich bar is] never ever, ever, ever, ever coming back.”