JAMAICA, Queens (WABC) -- The ever unpopular, dreaded public school lunch break. It is a stigma that has existed for decades. New York City is now trying to beat back that narrative with artwork, café-style seating, and grab-and-go-bites.
"It's now way better instead of waiting 20 minutes, a 20-minute line," said Hillcrest High School Junior Nicholas Seegobin.
At Hillcrest High School, there was a peek at the future of high school cafeterias.
"It's part of how we want to reimagine the school day experience. It is not just the academic experience in the classrooms, it's really all of it," says Schools Chancellor David Banks.
This reimagining is part of the cafeteria enhancement experience, an initiative implemented in 2021, which added healthy food options.
Cafeteria renovations will be a critical part of the plan. Six schools have been upgraded this year, and in 2023, 80 additional cafeterias will be upgraded - a 50-million dollar investment.
"I feel like it's a very safe space. I come here with my friends. We grab food, we sit down and have a nice meal together," added Seegobin.
There is also an expansion of culturally-diverse menu options, which is also part of the initiative with all schools offering Halal.
"I personally only eat Halal food and I've been known to skip meals if I don't know if it's Halal or not. This affected me because I was unable to concentrate," said a Hillcrest High School senior.
"This is where they give a hug. This is where they laugh and joke and they tease each other and have fun. It all goes down in the cafeteria," added Banks.
That is why what happens in the school cafeteria is just as important as what happens in the classroom.