Conversation on cafeteria changes with Lynne Hutchison

Cafeteria line filled with students during 4C lunch.


Cafeteria line filled with students during 4C lunch.

Ethan Dobres, Contributing Writer

From March 13, 2020 to August 18, 2021, the Solon High School cafeteria and senior commons was practically silent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as the school welcomes back its 1,600 students, the cafeteria and commons are once again bustling with activity. I talked with Lynne Hutchison, the Director of Food Services at Solon Schools, to discuss this year’s changes to Solon’s breakfast and lunch programs.

Q: What’s your position in the Solon Schools and how long have you been in it?

A: I am the Food Services Director and I have been doing it for three and a half years.


Q: What are some of the changes being made to Solon’s lunch program for the 2021-22 school year?

A: This year is so much fun because last year was such a dead year for everyone. We had to do cold meals, and you can only make so many different sandwiches. This year, we have the hot meals back. We have new recipes, new items. We have some fun stuff, like an appetizer sampler, with pretzel sticks, cheesy bites, chicken drumsticks. All sorts of new things that we’ve never had before.


Q: And who decides those changes?

A: I do. But I like to have feedback, so I talk to my staff to see if there’s anything anyone is requesting, and we like to do surveys and adapt. It’s not set in stone. 


Q: How did the new free lunch program come about?

A: It’s an extension of last year, when the lunches were free as well. It’s a government program, part of the pandemic relief program. So for the whole school year, in the entire state of Ohio, all students eat free. Ohio is one of the states participating in this federal program. 


Q: Are students eating the free lunches?

A: Yes! I compared numbers from the 2019-20 school year, our last normal year to this year, and it has doubled. We did not expect that much. It’s amazing that we have so much support from the students wanting to try those new foods. It’s really exciting.


Q: Do you expect the program to continue past this year?

A: There’s talk. I hope it does because it’s so much fun. It’s a really great program because you have some of those kids who don’t necessarily qualify, but still need the lunches and want a nutritious meal with fruits and vegetables. It allows us to feed everybody. That’s my favorite thing to do: to feed people! All I want to do is feed everyone that’s here. I’d like it to continue, but it’s up to the government whether or not it does. 


Q: What’s your personal favorite school lunch?

A: Our brand new beef teriyaki, called teriyaki to-go. We just had it here last Monday. I like to sample the food to make sure everything tastes good, and I just wanted to eat it all! 


Q: Could you tell me more about the school breakfast program? Are any changes coming with that?

A: So the school breakfast program is only available at the high school. The breakfast program is also free for students. It gives students a nice breakfast to get going for the day. It’s a great way to jumpstart their brains. 


Q: Do you think having two good meals helps education outside the cafeteria?

A: Yes. That’s my focus, to come up with meals that are both exciting and make them nourished to learn. That’s the goal: to have that fuel to get learning, and I think a good nutritious meal, with fruits and vegetables and vitamins will get them going there.

[Responses have been slightly edited for clarity]

With many students eating in the school again for the first time in nearly 18 months, the cafeteria staff is prepared to make both breakfast and lunch a big success.