Lack of variety hits sixth period lunchroom, vegetarian options sometimes out


Cameron Rozek

A number of students who arrive late to sixth period lunch due to AP science classes and LINK lunch are left with a limited number of meal options.

Jake Pfeiffer and Ivan Thankachen

The Naperville Central High School cafeteria is running out of lunch options for students who arrive late to sixth period, resulting in frustration and disappointment for students. 

Freshmen attending mandatory LINK lunch and students enrolled in Advanced Placement science classes, some of which require extended periods, arrive late to lunch regularly, feeling the effects of this shortage.

Nicole Grosh, General Manager of Aramark Food Service Operations in District 203, is aware of the problem, and is seeking a solution in tandem with Denis Lange, Aramark’s Production Manager at Central. Lange works with a production team to ensure food is made and distributed efficiently to students.

“[We’re going] to work with our production team to rearrange our batch cooking, just to accommodate [students who arrive late to sixth period lunch],” Grosh said.

 Since AP science classes like AP Biology must cover a vast amount of coursework, students are sometimes required to use their lunch period to complete work. As a result, students in AP Biology like Senior Alan Chen miss the first half of sixth period lunch two to three days a week. 

Arriving late to lunch often leads to a lack of options in the lunch line — a problem Grosh seeks to fix. 

“I feel like [lunchroom staff] kinda forget about the AP Bio or LINK kids,” Chen said.

Chen said he is able to eat lunch however, with some non-hot lunch options remaining when he arrives at the lunchroom.

“You can usually get sandwiches,” he said. “But that gets repetitive after a while.”

For junior Ben Wang, a classmate of Chen, the lack of food is a minor inconvenience. 

“I complain about it to my friends a lot, but it doesn’t really matter that much,” he said. “It’s just kind of annoying.”

But to freshman Nina Rao, a lack of choice upon arriving late to the lunchroom can mean much more.

“I personally go vegetarian on Thursdays for religious reasons,” she said. “So if they don’t have cheese pizza, there isn’t another vegetarian option.”

Rao misses the first half of lunch every Thursday of her first semester at Central due to the mandatory LINK course all freshmen are enrolled in.

On Thursdays, a lack of options can leave Rao without food until the end of her day. Rao’s after-school club meetings and study sessions at the Naperville Public Library only allow her to arrive home at around 6:30 p.m.

“It’s just really, really hard until you get home and can eat,” she said.

Rao has had to find other means to procure food that align with her diet, either from friends, or from home.

Other students, like  Wang, simply bring extra snacks from home.

“I have been bringing so much halloween candy that it’s bad for me,” Wang said.

Central, like other schools across the country, is offering free lunches to all students. Grosh cites the program as a likely cause of a shortage in options for AP science and LINK students.

“Because of meals being free, we are seeing participation in a way we never have,” Grosh said.

Junior Charles Kuang, another AP Biology classmate of Chen and Wang, says that Aramark is able to supply sufficient food for students who arrive late.

“Even if they don’t have something, they always make sure there’s at least something like snacks,” Kuang said. “Maybe it’s not necessarily what you wanted, but there’s still food for you.”

Yet, these students still desire choice, and Aramark seeks to provide options to students, like Rao, who need them. 

“Offering a variety to each person, the first kid in line to the last, that is something we’re going to want to pay attention to,” Grosh said.

Until this variety is provided, however, Rao and others with dietary restrictions may not be able to participate in the free lunch program.

“Sometimes it makes me a little bit upset,” Rao said. “I feel this school has the preface that everyone is going to get a free lunch, but not everyone can get lunch when this happens.”