By Darlene Fung (V)

I am a swimmer, and being a swimmer means having a notoriously large appetite. We high school swimmers might not be inhaling Michael Phelps’s famous 12,000-calorie diet, but we certainly do consume more than the 2,000 calories an average American eats in a day. That being said, over one third of my daily food intake comes from Pingry’s cafeteria, and if I’m being totally honest, I love it.

While some may not share this sentiment, I look forward to lunch at school every day. I came to Pingry as a freshman, and I vividly remember my buddy day. I sat through a health class, a chemistry class, and a geometry class. The classes were all great, but I have to say, lunch was my favorite part of that day. I was floored by the swarm of students walking around with a wide variety of well-portioned meals that were vibrant in color, served on real plates, and eaten with real silverware. There was chicken, and rice, and pasta, and grilled cheese, and salad, and a panini station, and peanut butter and jelly—the options seemed endless!

I’ve been to other schools’ cafeterias where students are served a few chicken nuggets, one scoop of mashed potatoes that are made from powder, and some canned fruit that consists of a couple of beige cubes floating in syrup. On other days, students get a boiled hot dog set on a slice of white bread, a scoop of brown bean paste, and some soggy, gray collard greens that nobody but the bravest kid would eat. Food is served on styrofoam trays that are smaller than the average Pingry student’s laptop, and that’s that.

The difference between these schools’ lunches and Pingry’s lunch is night and day, and come freshman year, I was exceedingly satisfied with my dining experience at Pingry. I was so grateful to have a variety of healthy options to choose from as well as the chance to grab a piece of fruit to snack on throughout the day.

As my freshman year went on, I also became increasingly appreciative of the care taken to make our dining experience the best it can be. The kitchen staff puts an incredible amount of effort into serving hundreds of hungry, growing students a variety of over six different meal options daily. Even when we are not at school for lunch, whether for a game or a field trip, we are still served food thanks to the extra time put in to make brown bag lunches on top of regular in-school lunches.

In addition to the effort the kitchen staff puts into all the nutritious meals they prepare for us, they go above and beyond to tend to the small details regarding how we are served as well. Every day, just like my first day of freshman year, I am greeted with a warm smile and a “Hi, how may I help you?” before I am served a neatly portioned plate of food complete with an extra ladle of sauce, a sprinkling of green onions, or even an edible flower.  

It is the special care the kitchen staff put into the deliciously prepared lunches we enjoy five days a week that makes our dining experience all the more meaningful. So the next time you are in line waiting for lunch, don’t forget to express your gratitude to the kitchen staff. And if you find something that doesn’t particularly suit your taste, think about how lucky we are compared to the students in some other schools. Just as we already appreciate the amazing choices we have in classes, sports, art, and beyond, we should show our appreciation for the great choices we have in our lunches as well.