Kitchen Renovations leads to new lunch option

February 27, 2023

Park has finally begun to make-do on the long awaited plans to renovate different aspects of the high school. Among the renovations students have been anticipating, none are more exciting than the kitchen renovations. Finally, Park has a chance to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, make food safer for those food allergies or restrictions and potentially add sections of the kitchen dedicated to Halal and Kosher food. With the new kitchen renovations, it’s been easy to hope for a wider range of meal options that begin to add more accommodations for students, or simply better food. However, with the new kitchen renovations, Park has decided to move to a “bento box” system, which will only offer cold lunches.

This poses several issues for students at Park, but the main concern is the lack of lunch options. There’s only so much food that tastes good cold, and by switching to all cold lunches, it may be harder for Park to expand their lunch options to accommodate different dietary restrictions. 

For a while now, there’s been concerns about Park only offering PB&J’s and salads to accommodate religious dietary restrictions and food intolerances, such as Celiacs disease. If Park can’t modify their food options to be more accommodating with the option of both hot and cold lunch, I worry that a switch to all cold lunches will further limit suitable lunch options for dietary restrictions.

If you walk into any lunch at Park, the vast majority of people are eating one of the hot lunch options. Additionally, some of the best lunches at Park are hot lunches. Pizza, mac and cheese and the infamous orange chicken are all options at Park that will be gone with the new bento box system. There’s no particular reason for Park to get rid of some of the best lunch options, and students deserve to eat lunches that are genuinely good. By opting to only have cold lunches during renovations, Park is not only limiting their choices to accommodate dietary restrictions, but they’re getting rid of some of the best food.

The most obvious solution to this issue is to simply offer more dietary options with cold lunches. In theory, the bento box system isn’t a bad idea. It could be a cute way to pack lunches and offer more cold lunch options, instead of just sandwiches and salads. It’s also easier to conceptualize portion sizes and could reduce lunch lines. If Park is dead set on bento boxes, they need to give out adequate food for everyone at Park. There’s no reason why Park should continue to limit food options when they’re presented with the perfect opportunity to add more accommodating and genuinely good meals.

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With Park’s renovations just around the corner, there has been plenty of buzz around the dining redesign. The renovation will include a new kitchen with updated equipment, healthier meal options and more seating with new furniture. As the kitchen redesign will take time and money, Park can’t cook hot food in their own kitchen for the next 18 months. This has required it to offer “bento boxes” — a reusable multi compartment box used to store different cold foods — for the next year and a half. While many students at Park may not know much about bento boxes yet, there are many upsides to the Japanese-style lunch box. 

One of the biggest advantages of bento boxes for Park students is that it will majorly cut down on waiting in line for food everyday. Lunch time is already short enough, and waiting in line for food barely gives students enough time to sit down and eat. Bento boxes would almost completely eliminate this issue. As the boxes will be pre-assembled, waiting in line will no longer take half of lunch, becoming more of a grab-and-go situation. This would majorly benefit students and give them more of the relaxing time that they need during the day. 

One concern about the current lunch system at Park is how much waste we produce. Whether it’s a lunch tray, a carrot bag or a treat from the snack bar, everything is disposed of in the trash. In order to become a more environmentally-conscious school, we must take steps to increase sustainability in the lunchroom. If the new bento boxes were to be reusable, this would majorly cut down on our waste impact as a school. Park has talked for a while about how we want to become eco-friendly, and bento boxes could finally take the initiative in reducing our waste. 

The multi-compartmental box may also offer healthier options than the ones we currently have for lunch. There have been complaints about the lack of nutritional value to Park’s meals — garlic cheese bread and Chicken n’ Waffles are just a few examples of Park’s unhealthy main courses for lunch. Some options for a cold bento box meal could include sandwiches, wraps and salads that come with fresh whole fruit and veggies. These meals will be more beneficial to a high schooler’s body and brain, and appetizing to more people.

For those skeptical of the new lunch boxes: it won’t last forever. Having a variety of cold lunches for a year and a half seems like a small trade-off for a completely upgraded lunchroom in the future, one that will offer hot foods again. In the meantime, bento boxes will provide everything that Park needs.

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