The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

The student news site of Adrian Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, California

The Scribe

Major Menu Modifications

Baked pasta served by the Wilcox cafeteria. Courtesy of Charisma Meesala.

As soon as the lunch bell rings, you may see some students hurrying toward the cafeteria. It is no doubt that many students and staff rely on the cafeteria food to fill up their stomachs before proceeding through the second half of their school day. As some may have noticed, there have been a couple of changes to the cafeteria lunches this school year. Due to various sources of feedback from last year, district nutritionists and Wilcox’s cafeteria kitchen staff have decided to diversify the menu, as well as regularly alternate between options.

It is important to note that the cafeteria lunch menus used to be “stationary,” as described by Jorge Huapaya, the Food Service Supervisor at Wilcox’s Cafe. This meant that the entire lunch menu would change only every six months, with all options being replaced by new ones. This school year, however, variety has increased, and menus are now adjusted on a monthly basis. 

The drive that caused this change, Huapaya says, “comes from students, parents, staff at the schools, and also from the directors of our department.” Community feedback accused menu options of being too “boring,” resulting in more frequent alteration of and new additions to the menu. Starting from this school year, “instead of changing the entire menu every three months, [we are] just changing a few things each month to keep it fresh but still keep some of your favorites,” says the Director of SCUSD’s Nutrition Department Karen Luna.

In addition to frequently alternating lunch options, items such as Gochujang Chicken and Banh Mi have been added.  This is in part due to results from a survey released during the last school year, which helped the district realize that there needed to be more ethnic foods. Pastas and Asian cuisines were the two most popular categories selected in the survey, leading to the addition of both to the menu. 

“It is a long process,” Huapaya reveals, from the moment the nutrition department decides to add an item to the moment where it is actually approved and added. Luna explains that the research/experiment stage of testing a new menu item generally takes 2-3 months. 

The research process of introducing a new menu option starts with a chef bringing in recipe ideas, some which use more creative liberty than the suggestions inputted through the surveys. The district’s nutritionists then run it through a program that analyzes the amount of fat, sodium, sugar, carbs, etc. that went into the initial recipe. This is due to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrition requirements for school meals. From there, Luna’s team decides “whether we can fix the recipe to make it fall within our guidelines or if we have to completely replace it.” 

When alternating between monthly menus, the question cafeteria staff consider is: which items are the favorites? Because certain menus are more popular in certain schools, the cafeteria staff of each school have to take into consideration the numbers that a food option “sells.” Although menus from school to school are generally similar, Luna explains that based on the popularity of menus “within the school, we try to customize it a little bit.”

Aside from analyzing the numbers at which foods are taken, cafeteria staff also gauge the Wilcox community’s opinions of food through surveys. There are QR codes across the cafeteria that lead to surveys allowing students and staff to input opinions on cafeteria foods. Huapaya expresses that these surveys are “the best tools that [students and staff] have to be heard and to propose changes to whatever [they] want to see in the menus.”

The main goal of the cafeteria staff and district nutritionists is to make sure students and staff at Wilcox are well-fed. Taking into account the feedback and suggestions the Wilcox community inputted last school year, the cafeteria lunch menus now alternate monthly and incorporate more ethnic foods. Keep in mind that your favorite lunch items are freshly cooked from scratch every morning, so make sure to express your gratitude towards the cafeteria staff!

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