Students, staff react to changes in lunch prices


Photo by Karidja Monjolo

The Special of the Day provides students with different options for a fee. (Photo by Karidja Monjolo)

By Karidja Monjolo, Managing Editor

On Sept. 1, food service provider Quest administered a change to lunch prices at West Chicago High School, seemingly without warning to students and many staff.

The increase in price was immediately noticeable: cookies rose from $1 to $1.75. Pizza, which was once free, is now $3.50 (more than a 3000% increase). Fries were also once offered for free, but are now $2.50.

 Last year, Principal Dr. Will Dwyer stated that the school’s grant for free lunch and breakfast was covered by the US Department of Agriculture. At the time, he did note that the grant was set to expire.

Inflation seems to be at the root for the changes to the lunch menu. Inflation is affecting every area of the United States. According to Forbes magazine, prices on food have been increasing 1% each month. It seems that the school is adapting accordingly. 

“We have an outside contract with a company called Quest, who services us. They have price control rights, and it’s standard, and that’s how it is really at every high school,” said Dwyer.

In other words, as an outside contractor, Quest has the right to change prices at any point in the school year. Two requests for an interview were sent to Quest’s local staff via email, but the Chronicle received no response.

Pepperoni pizza is now $3.50 when it was previously available for free. (Photo by Karidja Monjolo)

The decision produced strong reactions. Students felt:

“Disappointed,” said senior Maria Vargas.

“Disgusted,” said senior Betzaida Munoz.

“Angry. Betrayed,” said senior Paulina Avila.

Some of the anger stemmed from the fact the change arrived without warning, and that students were not considered in the decision-making process. The administration, who was not responsible for the price increase, did, however, announce the change in the daily announcements, but only one day before the plan was set into motion.

“I think [most menu items] should stay free, because the first couple weeks it was free, so I don’t understand why it’s not free anymore. The change makes it confusing,” said freshman Nyara Tate.

Both students and staff spoke out about the recent change.

“It’s not only hurting students, I think it’s affecting teachers. I am very upset about it, I knew what the price was going to be, but now that everything is more expensive,” said P.E. teacher Conor Zaputil.

“I’m personally very upset with the changes made to lunch. One of my main reasons to dislike the lunch change is that I’m a very picky eater, and I used to be able to have a safe option if I didn’t like the other things available, but now I have to pick something else, which often times, I don’t even end up finishing,” said junior Briana Guerrero.

For now, multiple free options are still available to students.

“I don’t know if everyone knows that they do still have two free meals that they can choose from, and then whatever the special is that day then they can pay for,” said Brittney Walker, Community Relations Coordinator, Brittney Walker.

However, Dwyer indicated that option is being phased out, next year, it is very likely that there might not be any free lunch offered. However, the free and reduced lunch program will provide some relief if that proves to be the case.

There is a federal program, before COVID, that if you meet a certain income requirement as a family, then you can apply for free or reduced lunch,” said Dwyer. “So probably by the end of this year, we’re probably going to have to go back to either buying or bringing your own lunch, or you’d have to apply for that waiver.” 

“The decision on what next year will look like will be made early next semester,” said Walker.

It is clear that while WEGO is still feeling the effects of COVID, as the pandemic dies down, certain privileges provided to the school as part of a relief package will be numbered. In the meantime, students and staff will need to bring extra money if they want to keep purchasing their preferred snacks.

“Paying for low-quality lunch sucks,” said sophomore Pamela Cruz.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published Sept. 23 at 7:11 a.m. It has been updated to reflect additional information concerning West Chicago Community High School’s free and reduced lunch options.