Midtown should adopt an open campus lunch policy

Lily Rachwalski

Open Campus lunch, which is when students are allowed to leave campus for lunch, is a happy memory that many high school graduates look back on. However, Midtown’s strict adherence to a closed-campus policy curbs the making of more than just memories. 

Over the 2022 summer, Atlanta Public Schools notified Midtown families that school cafeteria breakfast and lunches would now cost a fee — a change from last year, where students were provided with two free meals a day during both the school year and breaks. 

APS’s amendments to its free lunch policy makes cafeteria meals a less appealing option to students, as they now cost money and are potentially less appealing or nutritious than other options. Cafeteria lunches and breakfasts rarely provide enough nutrients and proteins, especially for student athletes, who need to consume more to support their bodies. There’s a solution to this problem that Midtown has rebelled against for years: an open-campus lunch policy.

An open campus lunch would allow students to come and go from the Midtown campus on 10th Street and Monroe Drive during their lunch periods, adding flexibility to the school day. During this break, students could choose where to spend their time and there are a plethora of good options.

Students could choose to venture across Monroe to Midtown Promenade and get food from stores like Trader Joe’s, Woody’s, Starbucks and Mellow Mushroom. These options provide more variety in a student’s day and provide them with less cookie-cutter and potentially more nutritious options than what is served to students in the school cafeteria. Students would have a larger choice over what and how much they eat, promoting healthy eating habits and decision-making skills. 

 The addition of an open-campus policy would encourage the spending of money in nearby areas, which would further enrich the Midtown community’s economy and create additional connections between our school and the Midtown community. 

An open campus lunch policy could also serve as an outlet for student-athletes — a way to squeeze in a run for the cross country or track team at Piedmont Park before they are shuttled off to soccer or basketball practice when the clock hits 3:45 p.m. Midtown’s location directly across from the Piedmont Park meadow makes getting fresh air during lunch easy, as students could choose to picnic, go for a walk or run, or enjoy some of Atlanta’s finest greenspace in any way they choose. 

An open campus lunch policy would also serve as a good way to reward students with high passing or attendance rates. Currently, students only are rewarded for perfect attendance each month with a small gift or snack — something like a caramel apple, a Midtown-branded scarf or a water bottle. 

These gifts usually go wasted, as they are usually of low quality or unwanted by the students who receive them. A more effective and appreciated way of celebrating high-achieving students would be allowing them greater responsibility and control in their own lives. Midtown could easily police the students who are allowed to leave versus those who are not allowed to leave — we now all have newly-printed student IDs, which we are required to have on us at all times. 

The school resource officers or teachers who are always manning the gates, making sure no students exit, could now serve as gatekeepers as well. Qualified students could be allowed in and out of the campus-based on certain criteria, something like a high passing grade or attendance rate, set by the administration.

In order to ensure healthy, accessible food options and reward high-achieving students, Midtown must make a change for the better and consider instating an open-campus lunch policy.