Lunch No Longer a Social Activity

Covid-19 has impacted everything


Andrew McCluskey

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s lives and routines, including being able to eat lunch with friends and coworkers. Mrs. Patricia London, Abington Middle-High School librarian, eats her lunch alone in her car, as do many faculty this year.

This past year has been extremely odd for everyone. COVID-19 has impacted just about every aspect of what we once saw as a “normal” way of living. From not being able to hang out with your friends to having to wear a mask everywhere you go, things are not the same as they once were.

Now, many cannot even eat lunch in the school without worrying about contacting COVID-19. Even the teachers at Abington High School have been affected by these lunch issues.

Lunch used to be a time where both students and teachers could enjoy their meal while also being able to socialize with those around them. But no longer. It seems now you must envelop yourself within a fortress of solitude to protect yourself.

Some faculty and administrators recently gave first-person accounts about where they eat their lunch and how they have been affected by these new circumstances.

Two English teachers, Mrs. Kimberly McHugh and Dr. Elizabeth Gonsalves, have resorted to eating their lunch alone in their rooms.

“I eat lunch in my classroom.  I don’t use the refrigerator or the microwave so I need to use a thermos for hot food and an ice pack/insulated lunch bag for cold. I don’t know how long I’ll maintain this routine,” McHugh said.

I’ve gone out every single day, even in the rain, snow, wind, and freezing cold.”

— Mrs. Jackie Farias

Gonsalves had a similar response. “I usually eat at my desk, alone, either in my classroom or office. It has been because of COVID as I have elderly housebound parents that I had to take care of and could not quarantine from. I really had to focus carefully on remaining well for their sake, and could not take the risk of being maskless with anyone.”

Mrs. Karin Daisy, one of the high school’s health and wellness teachers, also eats alone at her desk some of the days: “I eat lunch at my desk on days I have second lunch (A days),” she said. “I eat with Ms. Carrie Balasco [teacher in the Coop program] on B days when I have first lunch. Either outside or in the café.”

Lunch did not used to be this isolating for Daisy. “Eating with no one or with one person is 100% because of Covid,” she said.

Science teacher Mrs. Jackie Farias gave great insight into how times used to be compared to now. “In the past, I would typically eat a hot main dish, a yogurt, and a fruit cup while talking with teachers from all of the other departments,” she said.

“This year, I stand next to my car each school day.  My passenger seat acts like a table.  I’ve gone out every single day, even in the rain, snow, wind, and freezing cold,” Farias said.

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She also tries to squeeze a few other things into the 20 or so minutes. “In the short period of time that we have for lunch, I try to sanitize student desks, hit the bathroom, walk to/from my car, occasionally touch base with other Science teachers because we hardly get a chance to discuss things together, and try to get stuff set up for my next class. I have just enough time to eat a granola bar, some other small food item, and half of a bottle of water,” Farias said.

Getting the Covid-19 vaccine may not change these teachers’ routines. “Yes, having been vaccinated gives me a little bit of comfort, but with the increased number of individuals in the building, more variants of COVID-19 coming into the area, and the Covid-fatigue that seems to be causing many people to let their guards down, I am going to continue eating my lunch this way at least through the end of this school year,” said Farias.

COVID-19 has impacted the administrators at the high school also. Mrs. Susan Harrington, administrative secretary said, “Janny [Mrs. Kelleher, another administrative secretary] and I both take turns eating lunch in the Principal’s Conference Room, if it’s available. If not, we eat in our cars.”

Harrington added, “As a last resort we eat at our desk, which isn’t ideal because there are a lot of interruptions and we need to keep taking our masks on and off.”

The assistant principal and principal have also changed their routines. They are in the cafeteria assisting students with their seating, doing their best to give the students a comfortable experience throughout these hard times.

Mrs. Clements said this about her lunch experiences: “I eat lunch in my office once lunch duty is over and occasionally will do a ‘working lunch’ with Mr. Bourn in his office.  He has plenty of space for us to be more than 6 feet apart.”

Even if all teachers are vaccinated, many still will continue to follow their current routines. “I don’t think my lunch routine will change when we don’t have to worry about COVID anymore,” Clements said.

Overall, it seems that everyone’s routines have been completely flipped upside down due to the difficulties with COVID. Whether it is teachers eating by themselves in their cars, or alone at their desks, or students eating in the cafeteria with other students while being extremely spaced out, nothing is the same as what it once was.

And it seems like things won’t be back to “normal” for quite a while.