Scaling back on deli meat


Credit: CJ Brown

The WHS Food Service staff will now limit meat and cheese to two ounces per sandwich. “We began to notice that the product we were purchasing had dramatically increased and the slicing [of meat] was happening more frequently, so we started to take a look at it,” Food Service Director Cheryl Judd said.

CJ Brown and Christos Belibasakis

The cafeteria staff at the deli station began weighing all deli meats that go into students’ sandwiches two weeks into the 2018-2019 school year. The amount of meat and cheese in a sandwich served at the deli must be as close as possible to two ounces in weight. The change, according to WPS Food Service Director Cheryl Judd, has sprung from students receiving a higher amount of meat in their sandwiches than they should be.

“What was happening at the deli is that we were giving a lot more than you were supposed to be getting in those sandwiches,” Judd said. “We began to notice that the product we were purchasing had dramatically increased and the slicing [of meat] was happening more frequently, so we started to take a look at it.”

According to Judd, the main factors behind the decision were the economic benefits of ending overspending on deli meat and the balancing of deli meals as outlined by National School Lunch Program regulations.

“You’re walking out the door for $4,” Judd said. “If you’re in a sub shop and you get a sandwich with extra meat or extra cheese, you could end up paying nine dollars for that same sandwich. If you go to the deli at a grocery store, they always have a scale to measure.”

Judd notes that she does not necessarily agree with the decision on a personal level, but her opinions did not affect it in any way. Judd cited the requirements of the School Lunch Program, which limits the amount of calories, sodium and fat a school can provide in a lunch.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter [how] I personally feel,” Judd said. “My job is to follow the requirements of the school lunch program. It’s the same thing as giving soda or coffee to students. [The school] could make a ton of money if [it] sold coffee and donuts every single morning, but it can’t.”

The National School Lunch Program, established in 2012, is a federally subsidized program that sets healthier standards for school lunches. Schools can be audited to ensure that they are following all nutritional regulations. If schools fail to do so, they can be dropped from the program, which means they will be ineligible for the federal dollars they are reimbursed for free or low-cost meals served to low-income students. Judd herself has recently been audited.

“When [the school] get[s] audited from the Department of Education, they look at our production records, what we’re serving [and] our purchasing records just to make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Judd said.

The school is also not allowed to give larger portions of food that cost more. While this was allowed in the past, the change is another effect of tighter federal regulations from 2012.

“The other thing that I can’t say is, ‘Oh, you want extra cheese on that? It’s gonna be an extra fifty cents,’” Judd said. “Years ago, we used to be able to have that opportunity to kind of ‘supersize’ [lunches], but the regulations have just become [more strict].”

The drop in meat portions at the deli is not without controversy. Junior Alex Kashian, who gets a sandwich from the deli at lunch every day, expressed that he is not happy with the decision.

“I think that the scale really limits what a kid wants and needs in a normal sandwich,” Kashian said. “Every high school student is used to sandwiches [from] the [Wayland Variety and] Deli, and having a limited amount of protein and cheese is not what students need or want.”

Junior Abi MacDonald, who frequents the deli, is also disappointed that students will now be receiving smaller portions, which she feels do not provide a sufficient amount of food for students.

“Deli sandwiches are relatively good for you, so the fact that they are limiting how big of a sandwich we are allowed is ridiculous,” MacDonald said. “I find myself getting a second lunch or something else to eat from the snack bar because I am hungrier.”