BVH feeds on a budget

Seamless Summer Feeding program provides free meals across the SUHSD

On+Oct.+19%2C+Bonita+Vista+High+students+wait+in+line+for+lunch%2C+taking+advantage+of+the+free+food+available+to+them.+Students+stand+in+long+lunch+lines+in+order+to+receive+their+free+food.+

Nicole Macgaffey

On Oct. 19, Bonita Vista High students wait in line for lunch, taking advantage of the free food available to them. Students stand in long lunch lines in order to receive their free food.

Carina Muniz, Editor-in-Chief

Bonita Vista High’s (BVH) food services was among the many changes the 2021-2022 school year brought by distance learning. Compared to the pre-pandemic era, school meals are now free due to the Seamless Summer Feeding program.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program operates in public activities, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. Its purpose is to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to students under the age of 18 throughout the nation. For BVH, this new implementation has caused a change in the community’s access to meals throughout the day. For senior Carter Gailband, he eats at the cafeteria during nutrition and lunch. According to Gailband, now that BVH’s food services are free, his consumption of cafeteria food has increased.

“It’s great that the food is free for everyone, but that means more students will get lunch, so they need more staff working in the cafeteria. There seems to be a serious lack of additional staffing to make up for that this year,” Gailband said.

Moreover, Assistant Manager in Food Services Martha Garcia correlated the decrease in food waste with the implementation of free meals. However, Garcia’s biggest issue while serving food is wearing a mask. 

“I’m always walking fast trying to get everything ready, and wearing the mask is super tiring,” Garcia said. “We’re [lunch assistants] accustomed to being busy. As a matter of fact, it’s better for us to serve more.”

According to Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Director of Nutritional Services Eric Span, the Seamless Summer Feeding program will continue to accept the SUHSD’s waiver for the 2022-2023 school year to provide free meals to all students. Additionally, Span notes that due to a shortage in cafeteria employees, schools will begin to hire students to work in the cafeteria during nutrition break and lunch. 

“As schools came back across the country, [the USDA has] changed how they were going to feed kids,” Span said. “It was really imperative that we provide food to people that normally would [eat] meals at school.”

However, the downside to the school food, according to Gailband, is the long lines from students waiting to grab a meal. According to Gailband, “the long line ruins lunch.” His concern—he is “afraid” of being unable to socialize as a result of the long wait times for a meal.

“I try to go during Nutrition Break, but my second period is math. That [class] is so far away, that by the time you get there, the line is already too long. They’ll [cafeteria] either run out of the good food or you won’t get to the front before the end of Nutrition Break,” Gailband said.

If [students have to] worry all day about how they’re going to eat, how do they focus on what it is they have to do? I’m an advocate for providing meals to students at no cost.”

— SUHSD Director of Nutritional Services Eric Span

As head of the Food Service Program for SUHSD, Span is responsible for ensuring that the district follows all applicable federal and state laws governing nutrition programs in the United States. More directly, Span is responsible for managing over 250 employees, and providing meal services for breakfast and lunch to the students in the SUHSD.

“I’m an advocate for taking care of kids. The more we [SUHSD] provide to our students, [the more it] is going to help them be successful in life. If  [students have to] worry all day about how they’re going to eat, how do they focus on what it is they have to do? I’m an advocate for providing meals to students at no cost,” Span said.