A new school year brings a multitude of new changes, and the rebranding of the Panther Rally Cafe is a big one for OH students. The new menu adjustments aim to provide the student body more nutritious and diverse options for school lunches.
According to Rick Cliffe, the Lead OH cafeteria professional, “The menu changed drastically from last year to this year, just going from basically heat-and-serve to actually putting things together this year with the test kitchen.”
OH is the first school in the district to undergo Aramark Student Nutrition’s updated lunchroom experience. Championing the new name “Panther Rally Cafe,” the new lunchroom provides students a wider variety of meal options to choose from.
“Last year and the year before was just your basic food – chicken sandwich, cheeseburgers, and we would have a couple different specials during the week,” said Debi Martorelli, one of the cooks at OH. “Launching this new program, there is something new everyday for the special.”
This year, there is always something new for students to try, as there is a food bar that switches its cuisine out every week. Some of the OH student fan favorites include: wings, ramen, and breakfast foods.
“Some of it might be kind of weird for a high school, but the kids like it,” said Martorelli.
The new additions to the cafeteria’s selection expand on the standard items and now include lemon water, hummus, and oil and vinegar as condiments.
“I typically don’t get them, but my friends do and they like it,” senior Lily Luevano said. “I usually just get pizza or nachos.”
The changes to the cafeteria should not come as an alarm to pickier eaters, as traditional menu options remain alongside the new ones. Students are still open to grab items like tacos, nachos, deli sandwiches, salads, and pizza.
Though lunch is no longer free, as it was during COVID, there are options for students in low-income families to have payment adjustments.
According to Cliffe, “You have to fill out a form in order to get free or reduced lunch.” There is an income qualification one must meet in order to receive a free or reduced lunch, and families can fill out this linked form from the Illinois School Board of Education to register.
The process of organizing and managing school lunch is not an easy task, and the work of the OH lunch service professionals often goes unrecognized.
“I do all the ordering. I put numbers into the computer for how many kids we are serving each day for every product,” said Cliffe.
With over 2,000 students, this can be a daunting task. Hours of work are required outside of the traditional school day to smoothly operate and manage all of the tasks in the Panther Rally Cafe, however, the lunch service professionals at OH work together as a team.
“I have a lot of good people helping me, so to make that happen it is not just me, it is a team,” said Martorelli. Through their teamwork, they ensure the satisfaction of the students and provide them with nutritious and delicious meals.
“We have a lot of fun and it’s nice to see the kids are happy that there is more of a variety this year,” said Martorelli.
My name is Natalie Raabe and I am a senior at Oswego High School. This is my second year as a member of the 42fifty team and I serve as a Managing Editor and the Features Section Leader. Additionally, I am a member of the BIONIC board, NHS, Best Buddies, SNHS, NEHS, Rho Kappa, and Mu Alpha Theta.