By Catherine Wang
While running between first period English and second period Physics, Allison Merz ’10 conveniently passes the cafeteria. Every morning she dashes in, grabs a muffin and a chocolate milk, and bolts to class.
After Physics, she normally buys another snack to eat during third period while doing homework.
During fifth period, Merz eats lunch, making more than one trip to the cafeteria during the period. At the end of the period, Merz buys another snack to eat in her AP Environmental Science class. And finally, before leaving school for swim practice, Merz buys yet another snack to eat in the car.
Merz does not make trips to the cafeteria purely out of hunger. Instead, she frequents the cafeteria because it is so convenient — perhaps too convenient — she said.
“I feel like I spend an unnecessary amount of money at the cafeteria,” she said. “I literally just eat out of boredom and because [the cafeteria] is open all day.”
Unlike many public schools, which open their cafeterias during snack and lunch hours only, Harvard-Westlake opens its cafeteria for the entire school day.
At other schools, when the cafeteria is closed, students buy snacks from vending machines, eat snacks they bring from home, or wait until the cafeteria re-opens during its designated hours.
With no designated lunch period during the day at Harvard-Westlake, opening the cafeteria the entire day serves a practical purpose.
Since there is no specific time slot during which students and teachers eat their lunches and snacks, the cafeteria must remain open to accomodate students and teachers during any of their free periods.
Consequently, many students find themselves grabbing their school ID cards and strolling through the cafeteria’s green doors very often during the day.
From a nutritional standpoint, this excessive eating can translate into the consumption of an inordinate amount of empty calories and the beginning of poor eating habits.
From a parent’s standpoint, the cafeteria’s hours can translate into an unnecessarily high food bill each month.
“I feel like I overeat at school because the cafeteria is open all the time, so I just go get food all the time,” Shanshan Heh ‘12 said.
Heh estimates she gets food four times a day.
Despite some students’ stories of overeating, others find positives in its all-day hours.
“I went to a public middle school, and I was always hungry during the day,” Jameson Huang ’12 said. “It’s nice to be able to get food any time I feel like it.”
Additionally, a cafeteria open throughout the day is optimal for athletic nutrition.
“It takes time to process food, which is why grazing — eating many, smaller meals — is better for endurance athletes,” said sports nutritionist and competitive runner Ryan Denner.
“Grazing helps keep a steady stream of fuel and anti-oxidants running through your system for proper recovery,” he said. “It also keeps your from having too low energy levels, and then eating too much in one sitting, which we all have a tendency to do at times.”