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  • Sophia Kumar

Are We Overpaying for School Lunch?

No one at Edgemont is a stranger to the high prices of cafeteria food. Many would also argue that these prices do not make sense and are not in line with the quality of the meals. A recent survey revealed that nearly 50% of lunch-purchasing students said they paid $5 to $10 for school lunches, while some claimed they spent as much as $10 to $15 dollars. So how much should school lunch cost? And are students at Edgemont overpaying?



To start, we have to evaluate the price of school lunch as a whole. Lunch is typically set at $4.25 a meal.. Occasionally, specials are offered for $6.75. A cup of fruit also costs as much as a meal ($4.25), which is steep for anyone who is attempting to eat healthier or add nutrition to a meal they feel is lacking. One student reported seeing a cup of watermelon selling for $6.00 – more than a full lunch. 


Additionally, sandwiches and cartons of food sold in the cafeteria by the gym can cost nearly $7.00, and a 20 ounce bottle of water costs $3.00. As one survey response said, “One carton of food should not cost $6.50,” and many seem to agree. The survey concluded that most students believe that a lunch including a full meal and a drink should cost a maximum of $5.00. If $3.00 were to be spent on a bottle of water, a fulfilling lunch cannot be supplied with the $2.00 left in that budget. Besides, many of the lunch options are already over the targeted $5.00 limit. 


Another survey response agreed: “If I’m spending $6.75 on a meal, I should be able to get at least fries and a drink, or a drink and a muffin.” In my opinion, this makes perfect sense – cafeteria servings are best supplemented by another snack or side. Many students also participate in sports after school and need the extra energy or even just the calories to make it through the day..


Another major concern to the students is the recent increase in prices, which prompted one student to say, “it lacks health value, everything is still so expensive, and the price keeps increasing – they don't even display the prices anymore.” Indeed, prices at the cafeteria do seem hidden from plain sight. 


It also seems that students are not made aware of price increases. For example, students complained about newer foods being raised to “insane prices” like General Tso’s chicken with rice: an anonymous student claimed it “used to be $4.25. Now it's treated as a special and costs $6.75.” 

Another student was fired up, saying they were frustrated by raising “THE NEW SANDWICH PRICING WITHOUT TELLING US.” This is a concern as students are now paying more than they are expecting to, oftentimes along with other cafeteria items, such as a snack or a drink.



With such a widespread agreement that food is overpriced, a logical next step would be to reassess the prices. However, we need to think about the feasibility of such price changes.

 

I think there are a few ways to solve this problem. While the cafeteria could lower their prices, one must account for the many costs that go into preparing school lunch on such a scale. We need to consider the cost of buying often expensive produce, along with labor costs. Inflation also, of course, drives up price. Thus, a decrease in the amount charged  could mean a decrease in quality, and according to many students, the food is already “mediocre at best.” 


Another option would be to keep the prices, but increase the quality of the food. While this would certainly make the high pricing more understandable, it would also mean the cafeteria would have to spend more, which may also not be practical. While both solutions are far from perfect, they are something to think about going forward.


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