West Ranch cafeteria offering free meals for the 2021-2022 school year


Camille Ayson, Raina Bae, and Haley Choe

   During the 2020-2021 school year, the William S. Hart Union School District was fortunate enough to provide free grab and go meals to students under the age of 18 based on a national program from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As schools slowly reopened for the 2021-2022 school year, the district was able to continue this program as the USDA extended the waiver, allowing schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students.  

   The USDA is an executive department responsible for overseeing the National School Lunch Program. Usda.gov explains that this federally funded meal program operates in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions striving to provide “nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.”

  Although there were drive-thru grab and go meals available to students under the age of 18 during the lockdown, many individuals still lost the opportunity to have consistent meals throughout the week. Now, students attending classes in person have the opportunity to eat a consistent, nutritious meal at no cost.

   Zach Yoon, a West Ranch freshman, explained that he usually eats more food from the cafeteria now that it’s free: “Most of the time I don’t want to bring my food to school everyday so I’d rather save time in the morning and just get free food.” 

   Rita Chitgian, a food service worker, is part of the hardworking staff at West Ranch. She and her co-workers have dedicated hours of assistance to the West Ranch student body.

  “I’m happy with [this free meal opportunity] because I think it’s nice to have everyone treated equally. Everyone gets the opportunity to get free food regardless of their financial background. It’s important to feel [like] they can come in here and get a well balanced meal, and if your stomach is hungry you can’t think so this way you get an opportunity to eat something before you go to class.” Chitgian explained. 

      Chitgian encourages students to take advantage of this opportunity because although the food is free, “the quality has not changed at all, the quantity has changed, but the quality is still the same.”

   As students have begun to learn about this opportunity, more and more people have been crowding the lunch room doors, waiting for the cafeteria to open at the beginning of brunch and lunch. “It is great to see that a lot more meals are going out,” Chitgian shared with The Paw Print. 

   For many students, waiting in the longer lunch lines is worth the wait. West Ranch freshman Rahul Palani says, “the lines [are] not too long, and we have 50 minute lunches so it’s fine. It’s worth it, I like the food.” He continued, “I mean, most of the time I don’t want to bring [my food] to school everyday so I’d rather just not have to bring anything and just get free food.” 

   Freshman Julianne Del Rosario explained the benefits of the program.“It’s affected [my family] greatly because it’s free so I don’t have to pack lunch anymore and we don’t have to spend money on snacks and extra stuff, we can just get it at school,” Del Rosario said. 

   No application or proof of income is needed to have these free meals, and students can grab them and go. Freshman Elizabeth Vo shared, “It’s more convenient for me because I don’t have to wake up early to pack my lunch so I can just get it at school and I can have more sleep.” 

   More information regarding the free meals can be found at https://williamhart.healtheliving.net. Cats, be sure to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!