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The Student News Site of North Hollywood High School

The Arcade

The Student News Site of North Hollywood High School

The Arcade

The Student News Site of North Hollywood High School

The Arcade


Kevin Santiago (He/Him)

In 1946, the federal government passed the National School Lunch Act, and school food has been constant ever since.

California and LAUSD have both gone above and beyond when it comes to school food, passing legislation and increasing funding for universal meal programs that make an impact here at North Hollywood High School.

In the 2022-2023 school year, the California Department of Education implemented a universal meal program that provides free, nutritious, breakfast and lunch to students. California is the first state to create a universal meal program that expands on the Federal National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program

“It makes the [lunch] lines go faster. When it wasn’t free [for] everybody, they’d have to put a code… into the stations, so it made it a little slower because every student had to submit something every time they got food,” stated Vice Principal, Xavier Chavez.

The way the legislation is set up makes for specific criteria to be met for the state to pay for our food. Kathy Knight, the head lunch lady who has worked at NHHS for ten years explained, “We get paid through the state. CDE pays us for all the meals that we serve so we try to encourage the kids to take a fruit or vegetable with their main entrée so we can claim it and get paid through the state for that meal.”

Knight continued, “If the kid just takes an entrée and not the fruit we can’t claim it, so that’s lost revenue. That’s the reason we are always standing [and saying] ‘Please take a fruit’, trying to encourage [students] to take that reimbursable meal so we can get paid and provide more.

Knight explains, “I’m on a budget, so if I don’t get enough reimbursable meals that means my budget goes down and that’s less food that I can fund for you guys. If I’m on a good budget, I can get teriyaki rice, I can get orange chicken instead of [just] cheesy pillows or grilled cheese every day.”

According to the LAUSD website, Cafe LA serves more than 100 million meals annually and according to Mr. Chavez, “We serve about 800 students a day, so that’s why we have to find a place where we can feed the 800 that we normally do–and the lunch lines we have, actually feed[s] everybody who wants food in those lines.”

Here at North Hollywood High School, students are used to the reliable alimentation that the school provides. Despite the ongoing construction and repurposing of part of the cafeteria into the college center, the staff has found a way to ensure students get fed.

Mr. Chavez feels, “I think more kids eat [now]. [Since] before [this program] you had to do the code, and some kids felt like, ‘Well I don’t qualify’ or, ‘I’m not supposed to.’ They didn’t eat, and now that everybody…doesn’t get asked, more students eat. That’s a good thing,” about the free food programs.

The point that has been reached today with the widespread availability of food has created many positive changes in the lives of students.

“When I’m hungry, all I think about is if other people can hear my stomach grumbling and it stops me from paying attention to [my] teachers. So, when I eat and I get full, then it’s good because I can actually focus on my work,” feels Valerie Fuentes.

The food served is healthy and according to Knight, “We get everything grown here locally; it’s not sourced out from other countries, or other states, or anything like that. Everything that we serve here is fresh fruits and vegetables [that] are grown locally, so that means it comes to us a lot fresher than it would be if it was sitting in a store…we do get a lot of organic fruits too.”

Even though California has a high cost of living, students do not have to suffer the effects of hunger or malnutrition due to the universal meal program and the hard work of cafeteria staff.

In the past, students were required to fill out a form to see if they qualified for free or reduced-price meals and then punch in an ID code at the lunch line to get the food.

“With everybody eating for free it made it a lot easier for us because we don’t have to have kids punch in their personal ID number like before–every kid gets this …opportunity to have a food… Some kids before didn’t wanna come to the cafeteria because [they] didn’t have money [and] they felt a little intimidated. Now that everybody eats free, everybody has the opportunity to come and eat and enjoy whatever we are serving that day,” stated Knight. 

Adriana Frausto, a senior student explained, “I used to have to pay…We had to fill out the lunch application form to see if we were eligible for free lunch but now [that] it’s changed,…My dad doesn’t have to waste money on … school lunches anymore.”

Frausto continued, “I eat at school way more. Before, I used to be afraid that I was wasting his money, but now it’s like I can just get it whenever I want and I don’t have to worry about that; I look forward to lunch every day.”

Rakhi Das, a lunch lady who has worked at NHHS for three years feels, “It’s good for both of us, the student and also the employee.”

A senior, Marco Rodriguez stated, “I eat it at least three times a week, depends if I don’t bring my lunch.”

Although the food provided at school is a relatively quick experience for the students, there is a great deal of effort that goes into both the preparation and clean up of the variety of foods that the cafeteria has to offer.

Knight states, “Most of the food we have to cook and assemble fresh, but there [are] some items that come in a bag and we just have to place the bag in the oven,…but a lot of the items that come in the bag I have the workers remove the food from the bag and then we cook it on a fresh basis instead of on a bagged basis.”

“It’s been harder because we don’t have our cafeteria anymore right [now], so we need to find a location where they can distribute food every day and meet the needs of all students,” stated Mr. Chavez.

The work done here, and every school, to maintain a consistent food supply is amazing. Every day your meals are heated, transported, checked off, and then eaten. So much effort has been put into the curating of menus with a variety of options for students to choose from. Staff members continuously work hard to ensure you have something to eat every day.

“We serve approximately 800-900 lunches [and]  anywhere from 600-700 breakfasts so it’s rewarding knowing that the kids are getting two healthy meals a day because sometimes this is the only meal a kid gets. [A lot of] kids don’t go home after school, they hang out and… when they get home, they’re not really into eating or maybe there’s not a lot of food left so we have kids here that try to fill up as much as they can because they know when they get home there’s not gonna be that much food available,” said Knight.

These past few years LAUSD ensured that all school food is free of cost for students regardless of income and that makes the dream of ‘no child going hungry’, a reality.

Marco Rodriguez stated, “It gets you by, it’s good that we have it, it’s free.”

Knight said, “We enjoy what we do. If kids come to the door and they’re hungry, …between nutrition and lunchtime we always feed them because you know that sometimes they’re playing ball or something they didn’t get a chance to eat… The cafeteria door is always open, like [how] your house door would be. If you’re hungry, you can just come in and ask for some food. We love our students, and we love our jobs.”






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I am in 12th grade and want to write articles that will lead to a better school environment.
Kevin Santiago (He/Him), Photographer
Hello, my name is Kevin and I am a photographer for the arcade. I am a senior at North Hollywood High School and a member of SAS.
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