OPINION: Cold Weather Limits Safe Lunch Options


Photo by Andrea Duggan

Colder weather makes outdoor eating a less viable option, crowding students closer together indoors.


With cold weather limiting outdoor lunches and new Covid variants surging,  the cafeteria is increasingly crowded. Though the school has decided to keep outdoor seating an option, rain and any weather advisories can crop up to limit that option.  Longfellow staff are doing their best to keep everyone safe, but students are often still feeling at risk.

“When I am outside, I think I would feel safer at a closer distance to someone than inside,” said Lucas A., a 7th grader. “I feel comfortable when I’m around five feet away from someone”

However, sometimes five feet is just not feasible, as there are people everywhere.    With everyone in the school, there will be less space and the close quarters could endanger students’ health.

Longfellow administrators have made some efforts to try to stop the spread.  They have put Xs on every other seat in the cafeteria and asked students not to sit there.  They have been reinforcing this rule and reminding students to pull their masks above their mouth and nose if they aren’t actively eating food.

Though these measures had been successful up to the break, meaning the CDC had not tracked a spread of the virus through the school building, the more contagious Omicron variant is putting stress on the system.

Another problem is that sometimes people just ignore the measures. For example, when a group of friends wants to sit together in the cafeteria, they will also sit on the X’d chairs. The lecture hall has started enforcing more distance at the tables, but monitors have to constantly remind students to separate.

In both places, students regularly touch other people’s food or toss packets of chips around the table.  The combination of students doing that and needing to take off their masks to eat could potentially spread the virus and make us more vulnerable as a body.

The lack of space in the cafeteria also causes another problem. Let’s say you wanted to sit with your friends, but there are no seats at the table without an X.  If you sit there, a teacher will tell you to move because of the rule. Now you can’t sit with your friends and you can’t do anything about it and we all know that feeling and it’s dreadful. So although these rules are keeping us safe, they aren’t always making us happy.

Two changes can help to solve this problem. First, we could try to find possibilities to open up spaces in the school. Already, some students try to eat on the benches by the library or hide in the stairwells. Opening another option somewhere in the school would help students find a space where they feel safe.  Secondly, students have got to start taking these precautions seriously.  When students don’t follow the rules the repercussions multiply.  First, it creates a hazard for those students, which, if they get sick, creates a hazard for the rest of us.  Second, when students see others ignoring guidelines, they start to feel as though they don’t have to follow them either.  And finally, it makes students feel unsafe and try other risky behavior like hiding out somewhere to eat their lunch, or eating outside in very cold conditions.

Giving students these choices and freedom of where they can eat their lunch could be beneficial as long as the administration conducts this new kind of lunch in a way that it won’t be disturbing other classes and that students actually follow the rules set in place. People can take a breather and take a little bit of a break from the stress of school and just hang out with their friends.