Outsourcing Lunch

Sylvia Bindas, Staff Writer

These days, brand name foods seem to be a crucial component of any student’s balanced diet. On any given day at MHS, students are offered various options for their favorite foods from around town: Caribou coffee, Brueggers bagels, Domino’s pizza or even Leeann Chin. At Edina High School, students have even been given the option to purchase their favorite Jamba Juice smoothies or order a Red Baron pizza. I have heard many voices around the school speaking out about how the staff are “selling out” and how there must be some ulterior motive for the absurd pricing.

So why the sudden surge in ordering-in? Initially, I was one of many skeptics who objected these outsourced products – after all, does our school really need to spend the time, money, and effort just to bring in foods that have a nice familiar name stuck on the box? Not to mention the hefty price tags on our brand name snacks, which are hardly a bargain compared to the reasonable prices of the schools other (and healthier) meal options.

Deb Waldenmaier, the head of the school’s lunch staff, told me that often, vendors like Leeann Chin come to the staff looking to bring their products into our schools, and because of their company’s popularity, their products sell like hot-cakes. And while we are getting the saucy mandarin chicken or extra cheesy pizza we crave, these “a la carte” options always fit the newly mandated nutrition requirements, as the school’s nutrition staff works carefully with companies to ensure that all of the products sold to students are made specially to fit health guidelines before being brought in. Imagine that, delicious and nutritious!

The best part is, as Mrs. Waldenmaier told me, that “all of the money made from these products goes directly back to the lunch programs someway, somehow” –the thousands of brand-name meals sold all go right back into funding the Salad Bar, Grill, and Sailaway lines. In fact, while the brand-name lunch options have been extremely successful, the traditional meal options have not suffered from the competition – the kitchen staff has seen no decline in the number of students getting lunch from any of the regular lunch lines.

Having spoken with Mrs. Waldenmaier, I think my initial criticisms of the “a la carte” items were a bit misguided. These new options are a win-win for both the lunch program and the student body. The choice of paying extra for these outsourced options is ours, and thus the choice to indulge or not is ours, so these items really don’t deserve the bad reputation many students have given them. Sure, they may be more expensive, but they are far from a rip-off. They provide us with much more freedom of choice, while at the same time supporting the cafeteria options we know and love.