Modernize our School Lunches! A Call for Open-Seating

Jack Sacks '20, Staff Writer

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Although the reasons for maintaining family style lunches are clear with respect to tradition, it is time for a change: University School should allow students to eat and socialize with whoever they desire.

The most common argument in favor of assigned seating is that students will develop strong relationships with his sponsor group over a period of four years. However, seniors are allowed to sit independently, derailing the social effect of family style lunch as a whole. It would seem most logical to give freshmen opportunities to learn from the wisdom and experiences of the seniors, but they in reality never interact and have distant relationships.

So why enforce family style sponsor lunch anyways? It is far more logical to permit students to sit and socialize with people they most desire to spend time with and see infrequently during the day. After all, in a competitive and stressful school environment where high academic achievement is encouraged, lunch is the only time of day where everyone is free to take a break from their never-ending work. However, the most common conversations that come up during family style sponsor lunches seem to be related to school, grades, tests, and even worse, finals. We need to stop with the additional lunchtime stress, which we only encourage by forcing seating with adults. Allow students to sit with who they like, and conversations about weekend plans, females, and other healthy topics will come up far more often than school-related subjects.

According to the United States National Institutes of Health, poor mental health is highest in high-stress environments where individuals have weak ties and feel socially disconnected. If students aren’t finding time to socialize with their friends because they are so caught up in school, their friendships slowly begin to fade along with their mental health. Although it is possible that students may become close friends with everyone in their sponsor groups, it is rare as evidenced by consistently quiet lunch tables. Teachers also benefit as they can socialize together and avoid talking about work themselves. A healthier environment for students and teachers is clearly promoted in this setting.

With the forced sponsor seating now addressed, why get rid of the family style part? After all, US is one of the only schools in Ohio with a family style lunch system still in place. However, time has passed and it is clear that US should move on. As previously mentioned, the object of this policy is to take the stress out of lunch. If students and teachers can simply waltz in to the dining hall, grab a plate, socialize while standing in line, sit down comfortably, eat their food wherever they like, and clean up at their own pace, a much more comfortable environment will develop during lunch. Currently, those who show up a few minutes late are forced to eat quickly so those who arrived early can clean up and leave. Does this sound like the social environment we are going for?

Students think about way too much during lunch, and this must change. Free seating will give students a reason to want to stay in the dining hall and talk to their friends, and cleaning up will be a simple process with students able to get to their next class faster. Moreover, it is important to note that most research on family style lunches in schools was associated with preschools and grade schools. Most high schools tend to resort to free seating and waiting in line to get food as it is an opportunity for students to form their own relationships with whoever they desire. It is clear that US should strongly consider taking a step forward to improving the mental health of its students.

Although I am myself a proponent of tradition in general, providing the students with a clear benefit in free seating is something that will make our daily lives at school a little more social and a little less stressful.

1 Comment

One Response to “Modernize our School Lunches! A Call for Open-Seating”

  1. Mr. Sweeney on November 28th, 2017 11:11 pm

    I agree that lunches should not be stressful. We talk about movies and video games at my table, or anything else that comes to mind. Is your sponsor unusually quiet? Well, it takes two to tango. Why not start your own topic of conversation at the table? There’s lots to talk about! “For all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”

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