CHICAGO (CBS) — School cafeteria food; for many it brings back memories of greasy pizza and chicken nuggets. Not anymore for students at one northwest suburban school, where buying school lunch is a whole new experience.
Students at Barrington High School are raving about the brand new lunch program.
“Honestly, when you think of lunch food, you’re like, ‘Eww,’ but it kind of made me change my mind, gave me a new outlook,” one Barrington High School student said.
The new lunch program offers a wide variety of options for students.
“There’s a deli bar, a taco stand, there’s a bunch of different kinds of desserts. My personal favorite are probably the quesadillas with guacamole,” one student said. “All of the food is really healthy. It tastes really good.”
For the first time this year, District 220’s school board decided to drop the National School Lunch Program at the high school level. That means the district is no longer reimbursed by the state and federal government for students eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
Instead, Barrington High School gets a percentage of total sales from their new cafeteria vendor, Quest Food Management. The school said it’s paying off with higher profits, which it reinvests to improve food services.
“We guarantee that 80% to 85% of all products are made from scratch, and we’re sourcing a ton of products,” said Lauren Delehoy, food service director for Quest Food Management.
Also, without the stricter guidelines of the National School Lunch program, students have more variety at lunch.
“They also have pizza, and that’s already pre-made, so you can just go and grab yourself a slice if you’re in a rush,” one student said.
The cafeteria also has a salad bar, grab-and-go sandwiches, a stir-fry station, build your own pasta choices, a protein bar, and even sushi.
“It’s a little on the pricy side, but I think it’s worth it for the food quality overall,” one student said.
Barrington High School principal Steve McWilliams said, before the switch, students would order food through GrubHub, Uber Eats, and more, rather than eat the cafeteria food.
“Students just didn’t find the food very appetizing,” he said. “We would have, literally, delivery drivers lined up during our lunch hours. So a pretty good indication that we weren’t offering food that students would eat here.”
Now, for security reasons and because of the new food options, deliveries are no longer allowed.
The improvements keep coming. The newest addition is a snack bar open before, during, and after school. It serves coffee, snacks, and smoothies.
The new food program at Barrington High School is part of a growing trend. From 2014 to 2019, almost 1 million students in the U.S. have come off the National School Lunch Program.