Everyone needs a lunch period

12:23. 12:24. 12:24. Though I was in Spanish class, my mind was spinning with mental math, spurred by the urgency of the ticking clock. Still 12:24. If I made it to the cafeteria in 2 minutes, I would have about a minute 30-second window to get some food, then another minute 30 to bound up three flights of stairs to class. 12:25…. I slowly rose out of my seat, listening, waiting… the bell finally pierced the air; the race was on.

This was my daily routine throughout my sophomore year. Since I wanted to take two elective classes, I decided during course selection in my freshman year that
I would not have a lunch period in my schedule. My adviser and parents cautioned against it several times, but I dismissed all their worries with a shrug. How bad could it be?

Pretty bad, freshman-year Eva. Pretty bad. Yes, I could eat lunch during one of my classes, and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed both of the electives I had refused to give up. But 2/5th of my school days were spent in classes from 8:15 a.m to 3:25 p.m, without a single scheduled minute to breathe.

First semester, I didn’t mind. I was able to get through those academic marathons off of the pure passion for my electives, sheepishly eating a bag of chips in math or geoscience.

When February came around, however, this approach quickly proved to be unsustainable. I was taking some pretty hard classes, and I began finishing my homework around 1 or 2 am every night, not having any wiggle room to finish an assignment during school. I began to dread going to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I was unable to focus most of the day from pure exhaustion.

It was also difficult to acquire a meal between classes. Since I only had about a minute and a half in a passing period to get lunch, I would race towards the pasta bar for a Mac n’ Cheese, or grab a slice of pizza. My free period on those off-lab days was 7th period, which meant they only had some mozzarella sticks or chips available by the time I got to the cafeteria. I tried to make and bring lunches to school, but I ended up not really having time for it.

And it is really, really awkward to eat a full lunch during a class. A bag of chips or something is easy, but some days I just wanted a good ol’ plate of pasta with marinara sauce, and I suffered some looks from the other kids in class for it.

Eventually, I mastered the art of near-silent chewing, which got some of the other students off my back. But for a while there, on any given day, you could find me shamelessly chomping away at a salad during a lecture about plate tectonics.

This combination of embarrassment, exhaustion, and hunger led to a hard time for the second half of my sophomore year. A lunch period gives students time to relax, focus on themselves, and eat food with their friends. Without a period in the school day that is assigned for students to take it easy, feeling drained and overworked is essentially inevitable.

The option to not have a lunch period in a student’s schedule should not be allowed.

Early bird is a thing because it is possible for students to rearrange their homework and sleeping schedules in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle while rising an hour earlier than their peers.

Foregoing a lunch period, on the other hand, makes it impossible for students to maintain regular eating and break habits due to the irregularity of opportunities for lunch. It is extremely unhealthy for high schoolers to regularly work through a full day of classes without sustenance or mental breaks.

Think about the message that an academic institution sends to students when they give them the option to waive a lunch period in favor of another class. It tells thestudents that stuffing an educational schedule is more important than a student’s basic need to rest and eat. It reifies and sanctions the toxic “New Trier culture” of endless competition, endless academic exertion, a do-what-it-takes-to-be- admitted-to-a-good-school mentality at the cost of your mental and physical well-being.

New Trier can have as many mental health “Student Lunch and Learns” as they want, but unless there is some examination into the ways the school structurally enforces this culture,real change will not come. Hungry, tired, stressed teenagers walking the halls are not anomalies of the student body but the most logical product of customs like not having lunch.

I currently am writing this in the midst of my 6th-period lunch
on the day that this article is due. Next to me is a half-eaten sandwich, an apple, and my friend, chattering away. Hallelujah!