Hancock Students Wonder Where The Outside Lunch Tables Went

Hanock students share their desire for the outside lunch tables to return. The students also share the connection between lunch and their mental health.


By Alexa Padilla October 6, 2023


Picture Outside In the Hancock Court Yard

Hancock students enjoy their lunch as they sit outside surrounded by their friends on September 14, 2021 at 11:57 AM.  Photo: Alexa Padilla



Andrew Martinez and Lilly Barocio, both juniors at Hancock College Prep, are two of  many students who sat outside for lunch during their freshman year. Both mention their disappointment after 6 weeks of nice weather and how they would love to have this opportunity back because it made their lunch experience better.


“I look forward to lunchtime. It's like a break from school, so I get to just relax and eat. It's kind of like saving my brain power for class,” says Martinez. He  goes on to emphasize the importance of lunchtime and how he believes it affects him throughout the day. “When we spent lunch outside, it was quieter, so we could have more conversations without people interrupting.” He added how lunch outside was more peaceful, which allowed him to enjoy his 45-minute break even more.


Lilly Boracio went on to describe the current lunch situation as “crowded” and even “cramped” while she mentioned how lunch outside was way better. “It was really relaxing. I think it was more peaceful because of the quiet.” She goes on to make similar statements as Andrew, and agrees on the outside environment being more peaceful. “I would say lunch gives students a break and helps them with their mental health.” Lilly not only views lunchtime as a break, but she even highlights how it is a time where students can work on their mental health during the school day.


A recent study from Brigham Young University titled, “Students who love lunchtime are more likely to feel belonging at school” by Tyler Stahle studied the effects that lunchtime has on students and their personal experiences at school. The report suggested that students who enjoy their lunch period are more likely to “feel that they belong at school.” This correlates back to their mental health and overall their “academic outcomes.” Dr. Erin Feinauer Whiting, who is also a professor at BYU stated, “Teachers often think of lunchtime as 'off time' but students don't necessarily view it that way.” Doctors are recognizing the importance of students and their free time which correlate back to their own academics and mental health.


The Signature reached out to the principal Vanessa Puentes, and she mentioned how the set up was all due to social distancing guidelines. “Those tables were put up due to COVID-19 guidance for social distancing.” 


In an interview with one of the assistant principals, Violeta Cerna-Prado, she provided some things to consider when asking for lunch tables outside: 

  • Custodials is a department that Ms. Cerna is over and she mentioned how it was just one person putting the tables out, cleaning the tables after every single lunch period, and then picking the tables back up and putting them away.
  • In current CPS policy, students aren't allowed to move furniture, but we can ask for help and come together as a community to help clean up since most custodians come in at 2:00 p.m. 
  • Security guards are also in shifts and almost everybody in this building is protected by a union; there are labor laws that the school has to abide by and they have breaks at certain intervals during their shift. 
  • Even though we're fully staffed (we have our six security guards), only one of them is overseeing off campus lunch due to the fact that some security is on a break or having lunch themselves.
  • The logistical issues that we cross is who would be physically outside watching kids because when students are on CPS property, they are the school’s responsibility.
  • “It is not impossible”, Ms. Cerna-Prado said. “We can start a focus group; kids can come together and we can make it happen in April or May.” 

Andrew Martinez, wanted the opportunity to enjoy the fall weather while it lasted “If the weather was nice, we would sit outside and just hang out. I got more pleasure out of it.”


This article was written for the Signature, Hancock’s student newspaper, in our school's journalism class.