Food for thought: Why West students choose fast food when free lunch is available

One student enjoys their Dairy Queen lunch while working on an assignment during lunch time.  A large segment of the Greeley West population eats fast food daily, rather than eat the food District 6 provides.

Maddie Zeller

One student enjoys their Dairy Queen lunch while working on an assignment during lunch time. A large segment of the Greeley West population eats fast food daily, rather than eat the food District 6 provides.

Maddie Zeller, Staff Writer

With Covid protocols over, the second semester in full swing, and most staff and students not on quarantine, lunch rush is back in full force. The question is, why choose to leave when convenient, cheaper options are available?

Despite having free breakfast and lunch available, students continue to flock to off-campus restaurants to get their lunch fix.  Some students at school find it hard to justify this decision, given the cost of fast food these days.  However, the answer is more than just money or taste preferences.  “Honestly, when I was younger the idea of leaving for lunch was exciting,” junior Mario Ontiveros said. “It meant that I had more maturity and free time to myself.”

Whether it’s money or freedom, there are a multitude of reasons as to why the off campus lunch option is more appealing. There is a percentage of those who can’t afford to leave every day, yet have a difficult time seeing the benefit of the meals being provided. Some students take advantage of this option out of convenience, taste, and some simply don’t want to indulge in the free food resources available.

In other cases, some students have to eat at school out of necessity. With the average fast food meal costing nearly seven dollars, students can easily spend nearly forty dollars every week, despite having a small budget. Junior Gavin Tanner said it’s worth it. “I don’t really like the school food, but I can’t necessarily afford to buy lunch outside of school every day,” Tanner said.

Some students say there is a lack in quality of food served at Greeley West.  They blame it on feeding the masses and trying to deliver food to thousands of people district-wide as part of the problem.  “I don’t think that the school makes nutrition one of their biggest priorities. I think that they care about us, but they are trying to feed a lot of people”, said junior Jeanette O’Reilly.

There is a concurring opinion amongst West students. The quality of food available is not sufficient to meet nutritional needs, driving a plethora of students away from school grounds. But, even in the case that fast food isn’t affordable for the students, are there other motives behind these choices? Is it the cool factor, is it the freedom, or is it the simple desire to fulfill food cravings? One sophomore student, who wished to remain anonymous and cool at the same time, said, “I do definitely think there is a coolness factor.  Personally, when I leave, I only go with my sister at lunch, so it is not a big deal.”

Leaving for lunch with your sister to stay cool is one thing, but challenging District 6’s food’s taste is a preference.  For some kids, it’s not so bad that they want to go elsewhere.  Freshman Kennedy Ader said, “I really don’t understand why people leave for lunch. Not only is it expensive and chaotic to leave, but there is free food here that is honestly not bad.”

Lunch time chaos has been more than just traffic and teen drivers leaving a parking lot.  There have been multiple issues with Greeley West students in the community this year, resulting in policies where student backpacks must be left behind in a classroom or locker.  Students and teachers are speculating that lunch will change next year – maybe to two separate lunches or maybe a fully closed or a partially closed campus.   For principal Mr. Jeff Cranson, the problem presents multiple solutions, but none that are popular.  “Factors like weather and behavior do make (lunch time) difficult to handle sometimes,” Cranson said. “There is not much that we can do now, but next year freshman and sophomore students might have a closed campus, and doors will be locked throughout most of the day.”

In the meantime, students will continue to order their Whoppers at Burger King, pizzas at the gas station, and plenty of Chick Fil-A and Dairy Queen, given trash cans around the building after lunch.  One thing remains clear: the love of fast food trumps the cost of eating it everyday.