Free school meals serve an important purpose


Juliana Wong

Dozens of students wait in line to receive their lunches.

Carlmont High School’s free breakfasts and lunches provide accessible and popular meals for students.

School districts have important roles as providers for students that do not have access to basic necessities such as school meals. In California, where 1 in 7 children is food insecure, schools have taken on the responsibility of feeding schoolchildren, per the Free School Meals for All Act of 2021. The bill, initiated by Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, mandates that all K-12 schools provide free breakfasts and lunches to students.

San Mateo County has not been struggling with the same economic troubles as other parts of the country have, reflected in the low unemployment rates and high median income. However, some local families took a financial hit during the pandemic and are needing help to access consistent meals that provide adequate nutrition.

San Mateo County also faces issues with eligibility for food services because the cost of living is much higher, making the standards of poverty far different from national requirements.

With having a free lunch option, there is no more responsibility for the parents or the child.”

— Thais Núñez

Besides the obvious benefits of free school meals to students who may not otherwise have access to food, the school meals also strike a chord with the general student body – in particular, the lunches. Many view the meals as a nice addition that takes away some stress from the school day.

“With having a free lunch option, there is no more responsibility for the parents or the child so in the end…there is always a reliable source at school,” said Thais Núñez, a Carlmont sophomore. 

The popularity of these meals is, in part, due to the convenience factor. Many students are finding that they simply do not have the time or space for packed lunches. Rather than going hungry, these students are getting in line for school lunches.

“Most of the time, my life is hectic and I don’t have the time to make my lunches, or I don’t have the space in my backpack to bring one,” said Brooklyn Alexander, a sophomore at Carlmont, said.

After receiving their meals, students walk back to their tables (Juliana Wong)

Arthur Gu, a freshman, has a similar view on school meals as Alexander.

“It definitely helps that school lunches are consistently free,” Gu stated.

The food service department offers a wide array of options for students to choose from, giving every student the chance to find a meal that they prefer. Although a healthier menu has been suggested, many students remain fans of the current options.

“[The school meals] provide the means for a lot of different people,” Alexander remarked.

Whether it is an alternative or primary option, Carlmont’s school lunches have proven popular with students and will continue to aid those who utilize this resource.