OPINION: Why Doesn’t ChiArts Let Students Eat Off Campus?

High school students take school-provided lunch in Virginia. ChiArts students need some better options while looking for their midday meal. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols, 2011. Image used via Creative Commons.

by Valeria Pacheco

People have many opinions about off-campus lunch at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts). Some would say it’s easier and would benefit students more to allow it; others say it could put students at risk. My question is: how so?

Off-campus lunch could benefit the students of ChiArts because of our long lunch line. 

Some people like to go to the cafeteria in the middle / end of lunch because the line gets shorter and less aggressive. Others would rather ditch the last five minutes of class to get to the lunch line first.

Students who wait until the end of lunch barely have time to eat their food. Lunch starts at 12:55 p.m. but the line doesn’t get shorter until at least 1:15 p.m.

Sure, that seems like enough time to eat; but students complain about being rushed, and sometimes there are meetings / other events to attend during lunch. This quick-fix doesn’t give students enough time to eat their food, let alone talk to their friends.

Sometimes students don’t even eat the lunch at school because they straight-up don’t like it. And that doesn’t make them picky eaters — it is a 9 hour school day; it’d be nice to digest something that is somewhat tasty.

There are also plenty of people who can’t eat the lunch at school. Some people are allergic to the ingredients that are in school lunches. 

It is not always possible to bring homemade lunches for some students. Really, we’ve all experienced that moment where we didn’t bring lunch from home (too rushed; nothing in the house) or we just can’t eat the food at school (allergies; disgusting). 

No student should have to go through a nine-hour day with an empty stomach.

Vegans have a particularly bad time with the school lunch at ChiArts. You’d be surprised at how many foods and products contain milk. Even the salads contain cheese or even chicken.

Obviously, not everyone can be happy and it’s impossible to cater for everyone’s specific needs, but having off-campus lunch would lighten this lunchtime burden.

Off-campus lunch could also be helpful to students in alleviating stress — even if it’s just for a short amount of time. Getting out of the stressful environment that can become school for just a few minutes can help students mentally or emotionally gather themselves.

Some students also prefer to do their work and study at cafes. The environment of a cafe is calming and can help focus on their work.

To be sure, some might think that off-campus lunch could be dangerous for students. Students can’t be tracked by school staff who are hired to keep them safe. But it’s more dangerous for students to be malnourished or unhealthy due to an improper lunch. There are proven safety measures that can be taken to insure that everyone who leaves campus stays safe during the lunch period.

Our school day is the longest in the country. We need to rest and relax sometime. Lunch should belong to the students.


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