Redlands schools serve on-campus Grab and Go meals amidst pandemic

Originally published in La Plaza Press

By ISAAC MEJIA and MIA ARANDA

The shift from hot breakfast and lunch meals to pre-packaged Grab and Go meals was one of the many changes that faced Redlands Unified School District students on April 19 when they returned to campus after more than a year of distance learning.

Redlands East Valley High School students and parents received an email from Assistant Principal Ronald Kroetz on April 14 with an attached document outlining new procedures to create a safe learning environment on campus.

In regards to lunch, the document states that the school “anticipates that there will be a minimal choice of meal options” and “if you are a picky eater you might want to bring your own lunch.”

While students were warned of a potential lack of variety, no other details to specify what the on campus grab and go meals would include were provided.

The on-campus Grab and Go lunches are prepackaged for students in a brown paper sack labeled “Locker Mates.” This allows for students to access their meal swiftly with minimal social interaction. (ISAAC MEJIA/ La Plaza photo)

Previously, students getting hot lunch from campus would get to choose their lunch items from a selection, then proceed to checkout to pay.

Now, prepackaged lunches at school come at no cost for students, which allows anyone to walk up to their school’s cafeteria to grab one, regardless of family income or free-lunch status.

According to Betty Crocker, director of Child Nutritional Services, Child Nutritional Services is “providing a unique service.”

Due to safety guidelines, Crocker said the type of food available for distribution is limited. 

Crocker states, “Due to COVID and safety requirements, all of the [meals] are a cold service with items individually wrapped.” 

This prepackaged lunch consists of a total of five items: one pack of Jack Links’s chicken tender bites, sunflower seeds, applesauce, Beans and Veggie crackers, and a dragon punch. In addition, students are given the option to take an additional milk, apple slices, and applesauce that are not included in the packaged sack. (ISAAC MEJIA/ La Plaza photo)

Some students attending high schools in Redlands expressed their dislike for their school lunches, due to both quality and quantity.

This is the case for Citrus Valley High School junior Janelle Gallegos.

Gallegos said, “They are gross and not fulfilling. I eat sunflower seeds everyday for lunch, because it’s the only good thing they serve.” 

Gallegos’s disapproval of quality of food is a common complaint shared by other students.

REV freshman Kris Garcia said, “Well, see the problem is that it is very little food, and the very little food that they have is very trash food.” 

Cia Anderson, a REV freshman, said, “It’s like prison lunch. Basically I was like telling my parents about it and they were like ‘yeah it’s like prison lunch.”’

For some students, school lunch may be the only meal that they receive all day. For student-athletes, it is generally the last meal they have before after-school practice or games.

Not all in-person students are upset with the current pre-packaged lunches.

REV sophomore Deacon Arne said, “I just really need to eat. I think it’s good.”

A second grab-and go meal option includes four food items and one beverage: hummus, one whole wheat tortilla, sunflower seeds, mixed-berry applesauce, and an orange, tangerine juice box. Unlike the previous lunch, this meal lacks a high protein food item.  (ISAAC MEJIA/ La Plaza photo)

It is not clear when the school will return to serving hot meals due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. For the time being, Grab and Go meals will continue for the remainder of this semester, and possibly the beginning of the next school year in August.

Crocker states that child nutritional services “[looks] forward to resuming our hot breakfast, lunch and after school meal programs when we emerge from the pandemic.”

Redlands Unified School District Child Nutrition Services is still offering their Curbside Grab & Go meals for no-cost. 

«This is where we provide all families bulk-style meals along with the individually wrapped meals, eggs, bagels, and strawberries,» said Crocker. 

These bags, containing a week’s worth of meals, are available to be picked up between 6 to 8 a.m. every Wednesday at either REV, Redlands High School, Mission Elementary School, Clement Middle School or Beattie Middle School.

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