Open lunch is a treasured privilege for Montgomery County students at public high schools including Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walter Johnson, and with some grade level restrictions, Quince Orchard, Richard Montgomery, and Whitman. Students may leave campus during their lunch period and choose to purchase food from local eateries.
The perks of open lunch are more obvious at some schools than others. For instance, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School sits in the middle of a bustling city, with restaurants such as Starbucks and Booeymonger just across the street. Students can hustle a few blocks to Chipotle, pick up a burrito, and return to school in time to check in with a teacher. Downtown Bethesda lies a quick drive away, promising plenty of tasty options including Cava, Chop’t, Georgetown Cupcake, and Yogiberry.
At Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, open lunch just makes sense. “I feel like it gives you a chance to connect with the community around you and connect with the local businesses,” junior Mian Osumi says. “[Because of open lunch,] I know what is going on outside of my school and what kind of city Bethesda is.”
Even at schools in communities that do not offer the abundance of options that B-CC does, open lunch is worth it. “There are always a bunch of options, despite not being in walking distance of places to eat,” Whitman High School senior Anna Marcus explains. “Having open lunch is a great opportunity to take a breather out of a hard school day and relax and eat in a different setting.”
Additionally, open lunch provides significant logistical benefits. “The school’s cafeteria physically cannot handle the population and therefore you would have to have multiple lunch blocks,” senior Ben Weinstein comments.
Furthermore, while MCPS’ cafeterias primarily offer processed foods, with open lunch, students have the option to buy a healthier choice when they do not bring food from home.
However, the privilege has received criticism from worried parents and teachers, as some associate open lunch with drug and alcohol use or skipping class. Using drugs and/or alcohol during the school day, or deciding not to attend classes, is a choice unaffiliated with the ability to go out for lunch. Though open lunch does not stop students from participating in said activities, it certainly does not encourage them. The presence or absence of open lunch at a high school shows no correlation with the success of its students.
In fact, open lunch teaches students maturity and independence, skills that will prove essential the moment they graduate. “It definitely makes you feel more mature and more responsible because you’re not being told to sit in a classroom,” B-CC junior Erin Devenney confirms. “You have the responsibility to take care of yourself.”
“It makes me feel more independent: I’m given the freedom to make my own choices and go out and buy lunch at the place I want to and hang out with the people I choose to,” Osumi agrees.
When given the trust of their teachers and parents, students are more likely to step up to their responsibility. Open lunch is a safe and effective opportunity to show this.
Article by MoCo Student Opinions writer Zoe Nuechterlein of BCC High School