Empty cafeteria, empty stomachs

Class is about to end and your stomach is growling. The bell rings and you race out of the room. You meet up with your friends for lunch. Today, mom didn’t pack you one, so you have to buy it.

But the school’s cafeteria is closed.

So, you walk 10 minutes to the Malvern Mall for something to eat. The choices: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or New York Fries. The same choices you’ve had for the past year. The line-ups are long and you only have 40 minutes until your next class.

Of course, you don’t make it in time for third period. After getting the 10th late slip and another detention, you think to yourself: When will the school’s cafeteria open again?

The scoop on safety

For the past year, Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School has been operating without a cafeteria for students, contrary to Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) policy.

Parents have raised safety concerns over students leaving school property during lunch.

Annette Farrell, parent of a Mother Teresa student and president of the parent council, said students have to go off school property to get lunch, either at home or at the Malvern Mall.

In the third week of September, her son was mugged on his way back to school from having lunch at home.

Three students and Farrell’s son were walking on McLevin Ave. when five men approached them. They demanded the students stop and empty their pockets.

The students complied and suffered no injuries. The suspects, who took the students’ cell phones, were about 25 years old.

“I had to leave work. I was panicked. I was scared,” Farrell said. “When I get a call that my son got mugged, the first thing that started to go through your head is that your child got hurt.”

“That’s the danger,” Farrell said. “As a parent if you’re not home, most of the time you’ll give the child money.”

Blessed Mother Teresa C.S.S. parent council president Annette Farrell argues cafeteria service should be available to students at the school.


Farrell’s older son attended Mother Teresa six years ago. At that time, students were prohibited from leaving the school or going to the Malvern Mall.

Now with no cafeteria services provided, students are allowed to leave school property to eat.

These students have only about 40 minutes for lunch. Without the cafeteria, students must walk to the Malvern Mall, which is 10 to 15 minutes away. Many end up being late for class after lunch.

“There’s no caf services, so everyone’s always late after lunch and stuff,” one student said.

In order to operate in schools, food service providers must engage in a bidding process with the board and the prospective school.

In Mother Teresa’s case, the school has been trying to investigate the best providers with regards to nutrition, pricing, and feasibility.

Once the school has decided on a service provider, a contract is written between the two parties that may be annually renewed.

“We want to get the best possible provider that going to meet the needs of the kids,” said Stephen Carey, principal at Mother Teresa.

Carey has only been on the job for about a week. His predecessor, Wendy Agnew, left the school after only six weeks to become a justice of the peace.

“I’ve seen a lot of different companies do it and do it well,” Carey said. “We just want to find the right fit.”

According to TCDBS policy, “nutritionally sound and varied food services at favourable prices will be provided in the secondary schools in existing facilities.”

Mother Teresa’s facilities include two walk-in refrigerators, one walk-in freezer, and several cooking and frying areas.

The TCDBS could not be reached for comment as to why food services stopped last year.

“Mother Teresa is overlooked, because Mother Teresa is so stigmatized,” Farrell said. “I send my first son there, I send my second son there, and if I have 10 more kids, I’ll send them to Mother Teresa.”

-With files from Amanda Ly