Skip to content

O’Connell High Lunch = The Great Escape

March 2, 2009

John O’Connell High is the school that El Tonayense, possibly the world’s best taco truck, is theoretically too close to and apparently endangering the very health of the student body.

Our friends at Mission Loc@l did some real reporting on the school lunch program that students literally flee.

I figured it was bad, but not this bad. Most kids either won’t eat the free lunches, or Steve McQueen the fence to buy a ham sandwich.

Of the total school population of 744, 75 percent or about 560 students are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program, yet the cafeteria serves only 140 to 160 students a day, according to cafeteria coordinator Rosalina Navarroza.

Steiner [the school nurse] sympathizes with students who don’t eat the free lunch. “I wouldn’t eat it and I personally don’t think it’s very good,” she said.

Without other options, most like senior Carla Santos, simply go without food during the day. “I wait until after school to eat. You will never see me eat in the cafeteria because it doesn’t taste like real food, she said.

While some wait out a more than seven- hour day without eating, others like sophomore John Michaels tries to skip class 10-15 minutes before the lunch bell rings so that he can buy lunch off campus. He works to avoid school resource officers who guard the school gates because only seniors on good standing have permission to leave campus during lunch.“ I have gotten detention for this many times” explained Michaels.

At Tortas El Primo, the popular Mexican sandwich shop two blocks away from the school, server Franco Mata Perez said students often call in their orders ahead of time so that they don’t have to worry about a wait….  His brother Arthur Perez who works the cash register says most students order a ham sandwich that sells for $4.50 with a free soda….

But as senior Edith Ruiz explained, not all students have the money to eat off campus. “I can’t afford outside food so I don’t even bother leaving,” she said looking at the cheese quesadilla she has pulled off the free lunch line.  “The cheese tastes nasty but its food and I’m hungry, she says.

Glad to see the hard work of the Student Physical Activity Nutritional Kommitte (SPANK) helping the students NOT EACH LUNCH.

“Student and parent run food sales, for example, have been prohibited since 2003. According to the school’s Wellness Center policy brief,  “Competitive food sales at lunch time drain money from the lunch line and Beanery operations causing lunch line menus to drop in quality because more students choose competitive foods instead.”

As we can see, eliminating the competition is clearly working out to the students’ benefit.  (And remember SPANK are the ones NOT going after ice cream trucks in front of elementary schools — as per Dana “That’s a separate battle someone else will have to fight” Woldow. Yes, El Tonayense is the real problem here.)

Currently federal and state government reimburses SFUSD for free meals for about $2.20 per meal.

You can get two of the finest (and probably healthiest) tacos in the world for $2.50 at El Tonayense.  I say crash the fence, cross the playground and pull up behind the cafeteria, El Capitan Benjamin Santana.  You’d be doing the students a favor.

Hell, I’ll build a burrito cannon and shoot tacos over the playground fence myself.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2009 12:13 am

    I stop by that truck sometimes on the way home from work. They’re super nice people. The city should think about pilot programs to get some of the local eateries to come up with the school menus. That part in “Supersize Me” about school lunch programs was actually the most interesting part of the doc I thought. If school lunches are anything like I remember, I don’t blame these kids for wanting to bail on them.

  2. March 3, 2009 2:41 am

    Yeah, the El Tonayense folks are very cool — we had them cater our rehearsal dinner. (Pretty funny watching people from out of town cautiously approach and order a taco with great trepidation, then return to get half a dozen, including la lengua…)

    MSF could do a school lunch once a week!

    Seriously though, maybe restaurants or caterers could each adopt a school.


  1. Tonayense Justice Delayed Once More « Burrito Justice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: