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St. Ben’s new cafeteria is hot, hot, hot

What’s better than hot lunch every Thursday? Hot lunch every day!

The School of St. Benedict will boast a brand-new kitchen and cafeteria when it opens in the fall, thanks to the Archdiocese of New York. Principal Carole Arbolina is thrilled. St. Benedict has gone without a kitchen and cafeteria for 25 years.

“When I attended St. Benedict, we had hot lunch,” Arbolina said.

At some point, St. Benedict converted its kitchen and cafeteria into a preschool classroom. Students have eaten in the auditorium ever since. Work has begun on two classrooms adjacent to the old kitchen.

A wall between will be knocked down. St. Benedict’s new cafeteria will seat 100 students, and will serve breakfast and lunch.

A number of students will qualify for Archdiocese-sponsored free and low-cost meals. Those who don’t will pay less than $2 per meal.

“Not bad, when a deli sandwich is $5,” Arbolina said.

The new cafeteria will admit students in three waves – kindergarten to second grade, third to fifth and sixth to ninth. Approximately 300 children attend the school.

Many students will continue to pack bag lunches; hot lunch won’t be mandatory. For years, St. Benedict has ordered pizza every Thursday.

“The kids are very excited,” said fourth grade teacher Jackie Berardini. “Most of them would rather eat hot lunch than bring food from home.”

According to Berardini, the cafeteria will teach St. Benedict students responsibility.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for the kids to feed themselves,” she said. “They’re going to buy their own food and drinks. It’s going to be cute.”

The free and low-cost meals will help parents save money. Berardini expects to see results in her classroom – fewer hungry students. It’s difficult to learn on a half-empty stomach.

The cafeteria will offer healthy food and variety.

“Hopefully, it will limit the kids’ sugar intake,” Berardini said. “It will expose the kids to foods they’ve never tried before.”

The Archdiocese will hire cafeteria staff soon.

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