Tampa Parents Worried About Overcrowded Lunchrooms

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October 12, 2022

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(TAMPA, Fla.) — Parents at Wharton High School in Tampa, Florida expressed concerns about overcrowded and rushed lunch breaks in a post on the neighborhood social media app Nextdoor.

Daniela Diaz, a substitute teacher and the parent of two Wharton High School students, created the post after her daughter returned home from school hungry. She told her mother that lunch was canceled after she stood in line for 30 minutes.

Diaz called Wharton High School to complain. She said she told the school “my child is coming home with hunger headaches and a stomach ache. She’s telling me she’s not eating because there’s not enough time.”

Wharton High School disputes this claim. “There are approximately 100 extra seats every day,” said Erin Maloney, director of Media and Public Relations for Hillsborough County Public Schools. Maloney said the school lunch line clears every day in 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the number of students in line. “The school has only been contacted by one parent about this,” she added.

More than 2,200 students attend the Hillsborough County school. The school’s lunch periods are divided into three lunches totaling 30 minutes each.

“As a substitute teacher, I’ve never seen 750 kids, let alone 300 kids being able to go through a lunch line in that short of a time,” said Diaz.

Parents feel their complaints are being brushed aside. Diaz says nothing has changed since the first day of school in August. Her daughter no longer relies on the cafeteria for lunch and brings her lunch instead. Diaz wants the school to extend the lunch period or class time, so all students have the chance to order and eat their lunch.

“My philosophy is if I don’t advocate for my child, nobody will.”

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