Taking back our bread: How Niles North cafeteria prices have increased over the years

Not too long ago, the vending machines near the North cafeteria were shut down during lunch periods due to the “abundance of tardies” from students. That leads them to buy snacks from the cafeteria instead with one key difference: the food in the cafeteria costs twice as much as the food in the vending machines.

As people walk in line, waiting for what they want to order, it’d be an easy assumption to believe there’s a menu right above the kitchen. For as long as Niles North has grown, there has never been a clear menu in the cafeteria. Students would have to ask for a price before buying if they’re curious, and if they don’t have enough money, they’re instructed to put it back. 

As buyers know, the student debt limit is $25 below zero, but sometimes the women at the checkout instruct students to put their lunch away if they can’t afford it. Students often feel embarrassed when they have to do this, and sometimes, it occurs even when the student is not below $25 in debt. 

“Well they [lunch prices] are not fair,” says senior Rushi Padhiar. “They’re too expensive for certain students and their families have to pay like twenty-five or more dollars per week for it.”

Here is a comparison of some prices in the cafeteria vs. outside:

 

Item

Cost in the cafeteria

Cost outside of the cafeteria

Sandwich –

Chick fil A

Custom $5.50

Chicken Deluxe $3.65

Salads –

Wendy’s 

Based on weight $3

Various options $4.69

AriZona Iced Tea

$2.75

$0.87 – $0.99

Pizza –

Pizza Hut

For one slice of pizza is $3.75 

Average cost is $1.60 per slice

Snacks/ice-cream

$3

Vending machines ranges from $1.50 – $2

Straws, ice, hot water

$0.50

Free

 

Our school’s diversity rate is at a great amount so far, so understanding the economic diversity amongst our students is important. The school supports various movements such as Hate Has No Home Here and provides a program for families with a lower income which gives their students about three options for free lunch; A sandwich, pasta, or pizza. For students with this program, the choice of choosing between these three options daily becomes tiring. Without this program, other students must pay for anything they get from the cafeteria. 

Students in Ms. Weston’s AP U.S. Government and Politics class noticed this issue, and as a result, included this issue in their mock election on Nov. 4. 

“Many people, including me, bring my own lunch because school lunches are overpriced,” says an anonymous sophomore and a member of the AP Student Government. “I have heard people complaining about four dollars for one breadstick or pizza. School prices are ridiculously high that we, students of AP government decided to bring attention to this issue and give students the opportunity to voice their opinions and bring change to the school.” 

After the election was totaled, on Nov. [date], Ms. Weston emailed the school the results. For the school lunch issue? A whopping 652 students voted for lower school lunch meals, while only 24 opposed it. 

The possibility of not only lowering lunch prices is possible but also opening up more free lunch options, including for students who are not on the free lunch program. This can certainly satisfy students due to more options available. If anything, most of the cafeteria food should be free and only leave some items for the costs of over a dollar or two. Snacks in the vending machines cost half as much as they do in the cafeteria, so why put a difference between the prices if it’s the same food category? 

“I do think they could lower them a bit or at least give more options if you can’t pay for certain foods,” says an anonymous freshman. “I do understand how like you can’t just give food away but I don’t really think the school needs to make any money off of it since they seem to be very funded.” 

A great idea for the cafeteria would be to include a menu in the front where students enter the kitchen of everything they charge for. Because they charge for small, minor necessities such as ice, hot water, and straws, it would be useful to include it in a new menu so students can be alerted. With this could be a smaller guide where everything is located, such as sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and others. As for lowering prices, everything being reduced by one to two dollars could be great, saving students and their families a lot of money based on regular purchase of food.  

Various other ideas can be included within a new menu. An idea could be to reduce all prices based on certain days, such as a football game day, basketball, the last day before a break, etc. That way more students can buy from the cafeteria on certain days, which could benefit themselves and reduce the hassle of preparing lunch on those certain days. 

However, lunch should be reduced regardless due to the popular opinion of food being too expensive in the cafeteria, and the inconvenience of the vending machines closing makes it worse for students. Opening them back up would not only be a great idea, but perhaps having a staff or two outside operating them so students from that lunch period would only have access. 

So from $3 Arizona Teas to the $5 panini bread sandwiches, Niles North’s overpriced food has been hiding in plain sight for far too long. It’s time we stop letting the school continue to rob us of our hard-earned money and instead start saving dough on our school lunches.