Last Call: The most prized items in your high school cafeteria

Crates of chocolate, regular, and strawberry milk in a high school cafeteria
Were you a strawberry milk kid?
Photo: MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle (Getty Images)

For some reason, my high school cafeteria was located deep in the bowels of the dungeon-like basement, and within it, there was a single vending machine whose offerings were legendary. It didn’t just serve up chocolate milk. It served up Hershey’s bottled cookies ‘n’ cream milkshakes. It wasn’t just stocked with Pop-Tarts. It was stocked with S’mores-flavored Pop-Tarts—four-packs, not two-packs. Everything within this vending machine was somehow allowed to be sold to high school kids between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. for $1.75 or cheaper. It felt downright transgressive, and we all lined up to get our fill before its offerings were depleted.


There’s a lot to be said about the fascinating world of high school cafeterias, whose design must consider maximum efficiency in the task of feeding hundreds of humans at the hungriest stage of their lifespans. Because it was, by necessity, a gathering point that crammed the entire high school ecosystem into close quarters, lots of people have vivid memories of the high school cafeteria. Do you remember what you ate there the most?

Let’s hear it, people: your greatest memories of Bosco sticks, frozen personal pizzas, or the lucky kid whose lunchbox overflowed with Cosmic Brownies. When you think back to that very specific time in your life, which foods spring to mind?

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.


Mac Cheese & Hot Dogs, Plz

The chocolate chip cookies—the kitchen staff would bake them fresh every day and they were the perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie. Our school had early morning detention, where you had to get there an hour before school started and do trash pickup or help put books away in the library. If the woman who ran detention liked you, you got to help make the cookies for the day. The kitchen staff usually let you leave with 1 or 2 free cookies when you were done.

They stopped doing early morning detention at my school though sometime during my junior year because parents found it annoying to have to drop their kids off early or whatever lol. Instead they’d do lunchtime detention and you’d have to just sit in a classroom during lunch...idk.