Open Lunch System


MacKenzie Bunn

Students settle down on the floor outside the auditorium amidst crowded tables.

Ash Woerner, Intern

It has been said again and again, but it bears repeating: the infamous COVID-19 pandemic has changed lives. Even after its reign over daily life has begun to taper off, its effects still remain

Many are still scanning QR codes in lieu of menus at favorite restaurants, still distancing from each other—both physically and mentally. Whether these changes truly are the “new normal” or are soon to fade away, all have been affected by this new routine. 

The pandemic has certainly changed many things, including many students’ favorite part of the day: lunchtime. Previously, lunch was held in intervals, delaying dismissal time of groups to the cafeteria. 

Depending on a student’s third or seventh block class, they were separated into different shifts, designated as A, B and C lunch. How soon students were allowed to eat and who they could sit with would be determined by chance. 

In the interest of social distancing, however, Valley had to change things around. Now, lunch is one group with all students dismissed at one time. Not only that, students are free to sit nearly anywhere on campus. 

For many, that change was a good thing. 

“When we would all have different lunch shifts, I would always get really unlucky and have lunch with none of my friends,” junior Sara Mansfield said. 

According to a survey of 101 students, around 90% of students support Valley’s open lunch. Of those surveyed, 74% said their relationships with their friends were improved by the new lunch system. 

“It’s been nice to be able to sit with whoever and not have to worry about finding people. It’s also been nice to kind of have more freedom of where we sit,” senior Rachel Collins said. 

This open lunch system has benefited students greatly, allowing them to leave loud cafeterias and easily find friends. Beyond regular lunch comforts, though, this new schedule can help students academically. 

“It’s nice to know that all students are at lunch at the same time,” math teacher Andrew Koch said. “I often end up using that as an extra study time if kids want to come in and get help.” 

Having an extended period before the second half of classes can give students time to finish up work or quickly study for tests. Lunch can now function, in many ways, similarly to Viking Time for those who need it.

Despite these benefits, there are some notable downsides to this way of doing lunch. 

“Mostly it’s just people not cleaning up their spaces,” Collins said. “Sometimes people are really far out in the hallway so you can’t really walk through—it’s really annoying—but other than that, I don’t think it’s that huge of a deal.” 

The ability to sit anywhere broadens the scope of trash and crowding. Within the building, this inconveniences all and creates more work for custodians. Outside, this can contribute further to environmental issues of littering

“Before open lunch, we might’ve had less clean-up issues or taking up too much space kind of issues,” Collins said. “But at the same time most people are respectful in the same way.”