Demystifing BFA’s Lunch Policies During Covid


Site manager Jen Bombardier (left) works to prepare meals for BFA students. Photo credit: Helen Simmons

Helen Simmons, Editor

Lunch Accommodations Due to Covid

Covid-19 has changed almost every aspect of our normal lives. School looks completely different this year, but the changes in the lunchroom are undeniably noticeable. Between limited food choices and pre-packaged lunch, Bellows Free Academy students are longing for The Abbey Group’s diverse options and quality food.  Why is Bellows Free Academy’s lunch so unusual this year, and why can’t we have cinnamon dots and pizza everyday? 

According to The Abbey Group’s BFA site manager, Jen Bombardier, the USDA regulates the meals. From portion sizes to nutritional value, the Abbey Group develops a menu, and the USDA ensures that at least three of the five food groups are included, and that there are always fruits and vegetables available at lunch. The Abbey Group cannot whip up whatever they want; every single ingredient is regulated by the USDA.  

In addition, BFA has had to incorporate CDC and the Vermont Agency of Education’s guidelines. Due to the social distancing requirements because of Covid-19, BFA’s administration decided to split lunch services between the gym and the cafeteria and were forced to restrict the food to prepackaged only. This creates problems. According to Bombardier, “I’m limited for outlets and plugs… when serving out of the gym, I can only have a milk cooler and I can only have a warmer, and I can’t have a lot of variety over there because of that.”

In a survey asking for students’ opinions on school lunch this year, many students expressed how they missed the variety of food they used to have every day such as pizza, cinnamon dots, soup and ice cream. The Abbey Group staff at BFA have found it difficult to keep these kinds of food good quality. Bombardier expressed how the pizza gets soggy, the ice cream melts, dots get cold and soup dries out. The food we used to have available every day cannot sustain in the gym. 

Thankfully, the changes for lunch are not permanent. As soon as the restrictions are lifted, the Abbey Group’s food will return to its original quality and provide its usual options. Assistant Principal Heather Fitzgibbons said to expect changes next year – whether there is a pandemic or not. Ideas such as ordering lunch online have been discussed, but they are open for ideas. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to me, or email the Abbey Group and share [your] ideas; we would appreciate it,” Fitzgibbons said.

Students’ Dietary Restrictions and Lunch Options

What about the students with special diets and allergies? Out of the 72 student responses, 30.6% of the students reported having a diet or allergy, ranging from vegan and keto to lactose intolerance and berry allergies. The Abbey typically provides cold options without meat and cheese such as garden and Caesar salads, but, “The salads aren’t particularly filling if you don’t like the main meal, which means that it’s hard to have a filling lunch,” Rachel Ledoux (‘24) said.

Some students have dietary restrictions for religious reasons  as well. A student who wished to remain anonymous cannot eat regular meat due to their religion. As a Muslim, they may only eat halal meat, which has been processed following Islamic Law. Many other religions have dietary restrictions, especially regarding meat. Because they’re worried that most days they will have to settle with salad and won’t be full, this student doesn’t eat school lunch. 

However, according to Bombardier, students with diets for medical reasons or allergies can have their doctor fill out a form stating the student’s restrictions and receive an alternate meal. If a student has a diet for any other reason, they can contact the BFA Abbey Group and let them know what their diet is and which days they will need food, and the Abbey Group will try their best to accommodate them. Don’t be shy to contact Bombardier ([email protected]) or Fitzgibbons ([email protected]) with any questions, comments or concerns.