We deserve more affordable options in our cafeteria

Jordan Combs, Guest columnist

I feel anxious and embarrassed as I walk around the cafe, looking for the menu of the day and holding loose change in my pocket. The last thing I should be worrying about when the bell rings for lunch is whether or not I can afford to eat for the day. 

A balanced and complete meal should never be above $8, and the exclusiveness of the financial aid program should be reconsidered, as students like me are prevented from receiving aid even though we need it. 

The prices that are affordable are attached to muffins, cookies, and candy that are neither substantial nor nutritious.

 As I look towards food that looks appetizing and filling, I immediately become upset as the prices are marked up and not affordable for me. 

I am one of many students who do not qualify for the financial aid program at South. While there are systems put in place to aid students who come from lower income families, not all students who are in need of financial aid qualify. 

What the district considers “low-income” can look different across the board. Despite each student having a unique familial situation, the district has set qualifications you must meet in order to be eligible for the program. 

Due to outside circumstances and the rise of Covid-19, I am no longer able to afford lunch at school. 

Empathy in the lunchroom is needed. Students living through a similar experience to me shouldn’t have to feel overwhelmed when it comes to affording a necessity. 

While the school had a number of incredible programs during the pandemic such as free lunches for all students, they have not continued doing something of this capacity during the school year. This has made a healthy lunch even less accessible to me. Buying a panini and a soda five days in a row adds up to $41.25, and this would be what I consider a complete meal. 

An affordable meal doesn’t have to look incomplete. It’s possible for students to be accommodated without having to go through a lengthy and selective financial aid program process that doesn’t include a lot of students who, despite not qualifying, still cannot afford the meals at school. 

South has accommodated for kosher, Halal, vegan, and organic diets, so why can’t they accommodate those who aren’t able to afford to eat anything at all? 

While many can effortlessly and blindly buy foods that seem to be unreasonably priced, I can’t. I have to try and find the signs around the cafeteria and make sure that I don’t accidentally spend over $10 a meal just buying a nutritious , reasonably-sized meal for myself. Empathy is needed in the Glenbrook community. For students like me, it shouldn’t take a selective program to be able to afford a meal that is overpriced to begin with. 

Offering options, such as more affordable and healthy meals to students like me, would vastly improve student life and take an unnecessary toll off of so many of us.  Free or reduced options, if offered to any student who declares this need, would ensure that nobody is going hungry. Lunch should be a break in the day, not another source of anxiety,

I don’t want pity; I just want to eat.