By Sgt. Im Jin-min (USAG-Yongsan)August 27, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Space, or lack of, is always an issue on Yongsan Garrison, but not any more at the school cafeteria.
A summer-long project to expand the size of the cafeteria means middle school students won't have to compete for a seat and they can have lunch at a more normal time. The project added 150 seats to the previous 350 capacity.
"Now that we have more room, we can serve the children better," said Darrell Mood, Seoul American Middle School principal. "Most of the time the kids had to stand outside for lack of space - you can imagine what happened on rainy days. The spaces are going to make a marvelous difference."
Before the renovation, more than 400 students had to compete for seats inside the cafeteria, Mood said.
"We have more places to eat, and this new part of the cafeteria is well air-conditioned," said seventh grader Anna Cho. "I think I'll continue eating here."
In addition to alleviating the seating problem, the extra space allowed the school to improve lunch period scheduling, which was always a challenge because the one cafeteria serves mainly the more than 1,600 elementary and middle school students.
"The extra space allowed us to have an earlier lunch and get the kids fed on time," Mood said. "The middle schoolers can now eat 40 minutes earlier than they ever have. Before, they had their first lunch at 12:40. Now we have our second lunch at 12:40 for seventh and eighth, and the first at 12:10 for the sixth grade."
The project began in June and finished last week. It features the same red brick facade as the main facility, aligned with new air conditioners.
"It is not only bigger, it looks good too," Mood said. "We haven't even figured out what else we can do with it, too, as far as clubs and after-school activities. It is an enormous difference that will help this school year be a success."
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service provides school meals at overseas installations. This school year, AAFES increased menu options.
Elementary students now have a choice of two entrees instead of one, and the middle school students can choose from three entrees instead of two, said Kim Jung-sun, school cafeteria food activity manager.
"The students' comfort, health and safety will always be our priority No. 1," she said.