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Hot lunch returns to Estacada High

Nancy Shay takes a stand
by: Susan Charriere, Freshman Alex Sadewhite smiles through his pizza Friday at Estacada High School.

Fed up with the high school's new brown bag lunches, long-time lunch lady Nancy Shay took a stand Friday.

'I am making hot lunch for the kids today and if the administration doesn't like it, they can fire me,' she said.

In an effort to cut costs and plump up participation in the high school's lunch program, the school district opted for redesign in March. When students returned from spring break they were offered a brown bag style lunch of a sandwich, cookie, fruit and chips.

Unfortunately, students turned a cold shoulder to the new lunches. The already low numbers of participating students plummeted further. Many started bringing ramen noodles and waiting in a long line to use the single microwave.

When Shay announced that hot lunches would be served after only three days of the new regimen, she was met with high fives at the lunch counter. Vice Principal Scott Sullivan could be heard leading a round of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."

'I shouldn't sing,' Sullivan amended. 'It could scare off the clientele.'

Lunch included a choice of cheeseburger, pizza, corn dogs, veggie wrap, ham and cheese sandwich or a bagel with turkey and cream cheese; salad bar and milk. Soup of the day was cream of mushroom soup.

The high school has an open-campus policy, making it a challenge for the lunch program to compete with businesses in town and still meet costs.

Estacada School District Business Manager Donna Cancio said she was not surprised by the change in menu.

'The feedback we received on the brown bag lunches was not what we had hoped for,' Cancio stated, acknowledging the drop in participation. 'If our numbers drop by 20 people, it may not seem like a lot, but it has a big impact on this business.'

Defining the current menu as a 'modified hot lunch,' she expects the plan to continue for the rest of the school year. Modified hot lunch enables the district to employ fewer staff and curb costs. 'It's the difference between cooking a cheeseburger and a regular hot lunch," she said.

Hot lunch and breakfast menus for the high school will be updated this week online at www.esd108.org.