Carlmont kitchen staff chops lunch line times

A+student+waits+patiently+at+the+end+of+the+lunch+line.+Students+stand+in+lines+near+the+student+union+to+pick+up+lunch%2C+sometimes+for+most+of+their+lunch+breaks.+

Rebecca Von Tersch

A student waits patiently at the end of the lunch line. Students stand in lines near the student union to pick up lunch, sometimes for most of their lunch breaks.

“I’m going to pick up lunch today.” 

Many things come to mind when one hears this phrase; long lines and a variety of menu options, for example. This year, the Carlmont kitchen is implementing a few procedures, both new and old, to improve the state of the lunch lines.

The Carlmont kitchen has employed students since 2019, especially since the return to in-person learning, and this year is no different. It’s not uncommon to see a familiar face behind the counter, whether that person is a classmate or someone they see in the hallway. 

Alexandrea Li is a senior who started working in the lunch lines this year. She sees many benefits to her job and enjoys working there. 

“I thought it was a good way to spend my time since it was during lunch and it wasn’t extra hours after school. In addition, it was a good way to make money for college or other future use,” Li said. 

According to Hector Moreno, Carlmont’s food services lead, five students are employed there. 

Inside the Carlmont kitchen, there are several sections for lines. Although the menu items vary daily, they are uniform across the lunch lines. (Rebecca Von Tersch)

“I was very fortunate to have two students that have worked with me since 2019. The pandemic messed things up, but they came back. I was able to recruit both of their younger brothers once they graduated, and I also had students come and ask if I needed help. [Sequoia Union High School District] told me I was allowed to have five employees, and I’ve never reached five until this year,” Moreno said. 

The students help speed up the process and make the lines shorter. According to Moreno, the kitchen can open up an extra line and have an additional cashier when the students help out. 

Even though the general process is faster with student employees, one returning aspect makes the lines slow down a bit: the student ID input system. This system is a source of frustration for many students, who believe it just hinders the process.

“I get that it’s to make sure people don’t get too many lunches, but last year the lines were pretty quick without that whole process. I guess it works, but I don’t really like it,” said Aiden Abrari, a senior. “I get lunch every day, and I usually spend 15 minutes waiting. The lines are definitely slower because of the student ID system.”

According to Moreno, the identification procedure exists to ensure each student can get lunch if they need it. Last school year, some students would get up to five lunches a day, leaving none for students who arrived later. 

“It was a big stress on us production-wise. We were regularly going over 1,000 lunches a day, and now we’re down to about 600,” Moreno said. “Another issue we had last year was that students would come to a line, grab a lunch, say they didn’t like it, throw it out, and then just jump back in to grab something else. As more students would do that, there would be students that didn’t have a chance to get lunch.”

From the perspective of the kitchen staff, the identification procedure still has its drawbacks, no matter how beneficial.

“The lines have definitely been slower because you have to put in your ID now. For some people, it’s kind of annoying because you have to call them out. Some people don’t listen, and they put a random number in, and it’s frustrating,” Li said. 

Even with the obstacles, Li thinks working in the Carlmont kitchen is a pleasant experience. Student employees enjoy a few benefits, such as picking out their lunch before the lines open.

“I get out of class, usually three to four minutes earlier, so I can get to the student union. I pick up my lunch, put it aside, and then I get ready to work,” Li said. “Everyone is really nice, especially the kitchen staff.”

One thing that both Moreno and Li are excited about is the new kiosk by the gym. Since there will be another location, students can go to whichever location is more convenient for them, most likely speeding up traffic and allowing students to pick up their lunch sooner. 

“You can’t really tell how long the lines are until you go out. I went out there once and was blown away by the lines. My main goal this year is figuring out ways to alleviate that, and the Snack Shack [the new kiosk] was one of those ideas,” Moreno said. 

Li and some other student employees will work at the new kiosk instead of the student union. Li expressed excitement about moving and thinks the new location will be helpful for other students.

Abrari expressed doubt about the potential usefulness of the new kiosk but seemed hopeful at the prospect of a new line.

“I think it could help reduce the traffic in the current lines, but I don’t know how many people would walk to the gym just to get lunch. I hope it does work well, though,” Abrari said.

The kitchen staff members generally have a positive impression of the students picking up lunch. Students have a good attitude when they approach the counters, even if they might find the various procedures confusing or frustrating.

“For the most part, students here are great; they have a great attitude. They’ve all been respectful to me and my staff. I’m appreciative of that,” Moreno said.