Mealy-mouthed students: First-ever trial hot lunch program gets high grades from student chowhounds at Longyearbyen School

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It’s not like Ivan Jensen, 13, doesn’t appreciate his parents packing him a lunch. It’s just that, well, he isn’t always thrilled with what’s in them.

The Longyearbyen School student – along with most, if not all of his classmates – are abandoning whatever they usually pack (or don’t) in favor of a hot lunch program being provided for the first time on a two-week trial basis between Nov. 16 and 27.

“It’s great,” Jensen said. “I think we study better and we’re not having boring lunches.”

The school, like others in Norway, offers fruit for the taking, but lacks a regular meal program. The trial project is part of a larger effort in Norway, with a survey by the Norwegian Directorate of Health indicating only one in four students packs a lunch.

“It takes too much time in the morning,” said Sondre Stormoen, 15, a Longyearbyen student who, like many of his classmates, say school gets out early enough in the afternoon that not bringing a lunch isn’t a problem.

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Heidi Ervik, foreground at right, and Daniel Wilton serve food they cooked to to students this week. Photo by Mark Sabbatini / Icepeople.

Still, all of the students interviewed voiced enthusiasm about the lunch program and said they’d like to see it continue on a regular basis. And while they were all over the maps in terms of their favorite meal served so far, they were far less vocal about what they didn’t like.

“All the food is good,” said Ulysses Bailosado, 16.

Families were asked to pay 395 kroner for each student eating meals during the two-week period. Bailosado said he believes that amount, if proportionately increased to cover a full school year, would be worth the quality of meals served.

Menu items during the first week included goulash soup, pasta carbonara chicken salad with curry dressing, lapskaus stew. and a ham/cheese/tomato baguette. Heidi Ervik, preparing the food with fellow Svalbard Catering chef Daniel Wilton, said they didn’t come up with any new or radical items.

“It should be healthy and something the kids will like,” she said.

Ervik said she’s like the see the program made permanent and, while that would obviously be good for business, there are other reasons as well.

“I think it’s a good thing to have lunch together,” she said. “It’s not just the food. It’s a social thing as well.”