Washington Township High School has welcomed Cruising Cafe kiosks to its lunch periods as a way to serve food while providing students with more freedom and choices.
“This would have been a big undertaking for the summer, so I was glad we had a trial run for the last seven weeks of school,” said Food Service Manager Jennifer Mullin. “We didn’t think we were going to be able to do it, but we did, and I am very proud of our department.”
Most students were able to return to in person classes on April 26, and because of new Pride block scheduling, all were scheduled to attend lunch together between 10:20 and 11:20 a.m. Although the kiosks were already planned for the end of the school year, they came in time to help the district’s food service department serve the larger number of students in one lunch period.
“It is a great concept because there are so many locations; the students are done getting their lunches by quarter to 11,” said Mullin. “The principal wants them through the line by 11:05 a.m., because they have to be to their next class at 11:15 a.m. It is a very quick process. It’s amazing and it works.”
The Cruising Cafes were part of the 2020-2021 school budget, at cost of about $38,000. The kiosks offer hot and cold lunch options and are complete with warming trays, ice packs, refrigerators and registers. Over four kiosks were purchased and placed around the school to give students access to different menu options as well as socially distanced seating areas.
Students are able to access the entire school building during their lunch hour, allowing them to visit the kiosks at other sites besides the lunchroom. They can also use the time to eat “‘sit down” meals such as pasta or tacos in both the 9-10 and 11-12 cafeterias or to visit teachers for extra help and conduct club meetings.
“The students have a lot of freedom now, because they can go from one end of the high school to the other and meet with friends,” Mullin explained. “The kids are sitting outside and in the theater. They can sit anywhere they want. They are polite and there isn’t trash everywhere, because they are cleaning up after themselves.
“It is a great way to have lunch.”
Although lunches are free during the pandemic, during the third week after the kiosks were opened, the school distributed over free 3,100 meals, compared with 900 at the same time last year. For the remainder of the 2021 school year, kiosks will serve lunches from chicken patties and pizza to cold sandwiches and salads. The meals come with a choice of milk, along with fruits and vegetables. According to Mullin, next year the kiosks will offer chips and snacks, along with different drink options for students to purchase.