New cafeteria offers variety, larger feeding capacity

— When classes resumed after Christmas break at Cabot High School, the students received a belated Christmas present: a 1,000-seat cafeteria with 10 food lines.

So far, it seems to be a gift a large number of the students appreciate.

The new cafeteria was needed as Cabot High’s student body kept growing until finally, the 250-seat cafeteria was no longer suitable to feed the school’s 2,019 students. Erin Wilkes, Cabot’s food-service director, said the cafeteria has been in the district’s plan for at least eight years.

“There was no place to sit, and the students had to go outside,” Wilkes said about the previous cafeteria. “And we didn’t have the variety of food that we have now.”

Wilkes said there are two lunch periods currently, and there are seats for all the students. In addition to the 1,000 seats inside, there is additional seating outside in a courtyard.

What the district calls a home-style meal is still available, but there are also options for pizza, Asian food, Mexican food, a soup and potato bar, a salad bar and sandwiches.

“We have it all,” said Amanda Elizandro, district communications coordinator for the Cabot Public Schools.

“It’s just like being at the mall.

… It’s state of the art, first class;

it’s like a college campus.” Elizandro said the students love the choices and the larger facility, which can also double as a banquet hall.

“The new [cafeteria] has a wider variety of food to choose from, but in the older one there wasn’t as long of a line because not everyone wanted to eat,” said Krisha Stewart, sophomore at the school.

“My favorite thing is that it’s bigger with more to choose from and more places to sit with your friends.”

One wall of the cafeteria is glass, so the students can see out into a courtyard. There were previously 12 employees in the kitchen, and now, Wilkes said, the district has hired two more employees to work in the new kitchen.

Wilkes said she has noticed an increased participation by students who receive free or reduced-price lunches since the new cafeteria opened.

“The biggest plus is that we are able to feed more kids,” she said. “Logistically, they are able to get in and out.”

The cafeteria is in the structure that houses the new Panther Arena that officially opened with the Cabot Pre-Holiday Basketball Tournament in December. The arena has seating for more than 2,300 fans, including 1,000 chair back seats.

Elizandro said the old cafeteria has been converted into a science lab for high school classes.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

Three Rivers, Pages 117 on 04/01/2012

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