Cafeteria to Classroom

Lunch Shifts to In-Person


chupp Advisory taking a trip to go out to lunch. Photo by Emily Simon.

For those who have been attending Parker for most of their lives, they will remember the daily lunch as something generally loved by all — a time to be with friends, to chat about morning classes, and to enjoy food prepared by familiar faces. Students and teachers will recall waiting in the line for hot lunch or browsing through the grab-and-go containers, punching in their lunch codes and finding a place to eat. However, this has been added to the countless list of traditions that have been shifted dramatically by COVID-19.

Since going back full time in person, students have been eating a bag lunch every day with their advisory, an isolating experience for some, who may not have their closest friends in this group. “I think it makes it harder to socialize and get to know people,” new-to-Parker freshman Kyra Mathew said.

In accordance with social distancing guidelines, students are only allowed to be unmasked while spaced out from others, and are silent while eating. “Since in classes we can’t talk all that much either, it kind of keeps you from being able to make new friends,” Mathew said. 

Zac Maness, known to most students simply as Chef Zac, has had to make some major changes this year. “Personally, my least favorite part is not getting to see all the students every day,” Maness said. “It’s hard to not get reactions of the food we serve and just having that interaction. It’s difficult.” 

He went on to comment on what the cafeteria situation could look like next year. “Purely speculation, I imagine that they may open it up again for Upper School, and then we’ll continue to package food for the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders,” Maness said. “But I imagine that they’ll open up the servery again for Upper School students to come through.” 

Each week, those ordering school lunch fill out a google form detailing their choices for the next five days. Once that time comes every day, a student grabs the bag with everyone’s food and brings it up to their own advisory, where the paper bag lunches are divided between other students. All perishable food in the pre-packaged bag must be individually wrapped in plastic, along with plastic utensils for each student. This is a huge shift from how lunches were distributed in past years, where they were served on ceramic plates along with normal metal utensils, which were washed daily. “It bothers me immensely that we’re throwing out all this recyclable plastic every day, though I’m guessing that COVID-19 protocols make recycling things we touched with our naked mouths too problematic,” Upper School history teacher Jeanne Barr said about the environmental effect of the new lunch protocol. “It still bugs me, though, and I’ve taken to bringing my own plastic tray home everyday to recycle it there!”  

“We’re going through so many plastic containers now every day, like three hundred of those plastic containers that just end up in the landfill,” Maness said regarding the packaging decisions. “It’s not been a benefit to the environment in any way, so we definitely want to get away from that as much as possible. So the water bottles also, we were using so many water bottles every day, so we did discontinue the water bottles just to try to help offset the carbon footprint that we’re stomping around on the earth every day… It’s been disheartening.”

Eating lunch solely with advisory groups has not only been tough on some students, but on teachers as well. “I love my Advisory, but I’m accustomed to working through my lunches as a way of minimizing what I have to take home at night,” Barr said. “So this arrangement distracts me, disrupts my productivity, and interferes with my ability to work with my students outside of class — though I admit that it’s fun to hang out with advisees and I’m definitely bonding with them. I get the necessity for now, but I am very much looking forward to open campus lunches again.”