Cafeteria Hopes To Start Rolling In The Dough

Kendelle Hung-Ino, Associate Editor

Cheesy bites usually have lunch lines out the door, but school lunch sales still remain in the twenties. As Moanalua slowly welcomes back students to campus, the cafeteria staff is hoping their numbers rise into the mid two hundreds.

Cafeteria Manager Laurie Hayashida said lunch sales are “anywhere from 28 to 38” and breakfast is “barely five” right now, similar to the totals from a couple months ago. 

But the cafeteria staff hopes that the new in-person schedule can bring sales back into the triple digits. Hayashida hopes that “at least half of the 500” students choose to eat lunch when it’s their day on campus.

“I’d get a school lunch if I come back,” said sophomore Hunter Rodriguez.  

Junior Maleah Kanayama hasn’t bought a school lunch this year and isn’t planning to when she returns to campus. “I usually bring home lunch,” said Kanayama.

Social distancing protocols will still be mandatory in the cafeteria. Only one student will sit on each table with everyone facing the same direction. Students must space six feet apart if they choose to eat outdoors.

Twenty-eight lunches is an extremely low number in comparison to last year’s figures, Hayashida said she was somewhat surprised that they did not drop even further once the Department of Education restarted the free lunch program at 203 public schools around the state. 

From October 12 to December 18 public schools with a high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch are providing free lunch to any child under 18. “Meals are available to children regardless of whether or not they are enrolled at the distribution site, are public school students, or are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program,” according to the Hawaii State Department of Education website. 

Moanalua has only 26 percent, which is why the school is not participating. 

The cafeteria staff was concerned that their sales would further drop since the main reason students do not purchase lunch is that the drive is too far. With the free lunch program students would be able to drive to a closer school, instead of Moanalua, and also not have to pay $2.50 for a student lunch. 

“It didn’t [have] any effect on us, so that’s good,” Hayashida said.

For the cafeteria staff, the personal connection with students is missed more than the lunch sales. 

“We miss seeing your faces,”  and “hearing what’s going on and all the drama…it keeps us young,” Hayashida said. The most rewarding part of the staff’s job is when “we can build conversation and create relationships.” 

Cafeteria staff aim to brighten a student’s day and create an atmosphere separate from the classroom. “[We] tell you jokes off the milk carton and that…could cheer somebody up…[if, for example] they just bombed a test,” said Hayashida.

“The staff is really nice, they always make sure you make healthy decisions by offering or suggesting veggies,” said junior Emily Huynh.