The changes being made to the PHS cafeteria are helping to increase accessibility and diversity

The changes being made to the PHS cafeteria are helping to increase accessibility and diversity

Ari Collins
eSomethin staff

Many upperclassmen at Perrysburg High School may remember when the lunch options were limited, including the removal of the sandwich line, due to the COVID-19. Now, after the initial strain of the pandemic, the PHS cafeteria seems to be flourishing with new additions, including the recent launch of monthly BIBIBOP.

Denise Zielske, Child Nutrition Director for Perrysburg Schools since Jan. 2023, says that her team has been exploring new options to rebuild the cafeteria after the pandemic. The ideas began last school year, when they re-opened one of the lines. 

Zielske, and assistant director Katie Christen, decided to experiment with the new lunch line after spring break. “We ran that fourth line for the three weeks after spring break. So [Christen] and I came in, created a menu, many different menus. Sometimes we made it up as we went.”

They explained that the line was so popular  that the supplies for the second of their “experiment” were wiped out during the first week.

The a la carte station, once affectionately known as “the beehive,” also was in need of a renovation, they said. Christen and Zielske said that they wanted to add more modern or realistic options, like what students might grab as a snack at the grocery store.

Christen and Zielske decided to permanently implement the sandwich line while also creating space for a revamped “beehive” in a new a la carte line. 

Then, to help expand options and increase breakfast-participation, Zielske was inspired to create a coffee shop. “I had ran, or I had opened up and ran a coffee shop in my prior district,” Zielske said. “That worked really well so I thought that that would be a fun option here.”

They said that the main motivation for the new lines was to give students more options if they do not want a “traditional” lunch. 

“I love it,” says senior Caroline McDonald. “It gives students more options to choose from.”

Christen says that the numbers alone give a lot of feedback. “The kids are really enjoying having that line open and having meat options, vegetarian options and sandwiches. The salads are much nicer than they were before. It’s doing well, from what I hear.”

“We’ve done a lot for students who don’t traditionally eat pork,” Zielske explains that traditional pork-based foods have been replaced with turkey-based options. For example, she says, turkey sausage and turkey pepperoni have been added to some items. 

Zielske and Christen are also excited to announce the new partnership between Perrysburg Schools and the popular restaurant, BIBIBOP, which will bring another vegetarian option to the lunch room. BIBIBOP is a fast-casual restaurant that serves Asian style bowls and salads.

BIBIBOP will be in the PHS cafeteria, as well as at the junior high and at HPI, once per month through the end of the school year. 

“BIBIBOP will have two different options for students,” Zielske says. There will be a meal option which is a cup, or a stand-alone option which is a larger size. “It’s chicken [or] tofu and up to five vegetables for both options.”

When students choose the meal, they will get the purple rice, a source of protein and vegetables in addition to the usual fruit and milk available in the lunch lines. The stand-alone, a la carte option is a larger serving with double protein. 

Both the meal options and stand-alone bowls are available to students on the free and reduced lunch program as well as the regular-priced lunch program.

Zielske says that she and Christen are excited for these new partnerships and that “further down the road, there’s other different local businesses that I want to partner with to bring more exciting options to [PHS].”

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Hey there! I’m Ari Collins (she/her/they), a PHS senior—I’m excited for my fourth and final year on staff. I am involved in Art Club, Photo Club and GSA. I am also a Young Artists at Work (YAAW) alumna, peer educator, and I enjoy reading, painting and, of course, writing. #SeniorRah!
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