Getting to know the crew behind the counter

Before a student’s alarm is close to ringing, before many bus drivers begin their route, cafeteria workers are starting their day when they begin preparing breakfast for the incoming mass of students every morning. Seemingly one of the most important jobs in school, the lunch staff is often underappreciated for their work. 

The cafeteria crew start their mornings at 5:30 a.m. preparing crates of milk, juice, trays of waffles and a variety of other foods. They serve breakfast at 6:30 a.m. where afterwards they prepare food for lunch in advance. 

The kitchen staff provides the neighboring school the food to serve breakfast and lunch each day, while also preparing for their own students. The cafeteria manager, Sheila Davis, supervises the kitchen and ensures everything is up to standard.  

A proper flow is established where in one station a member cuts up lettuce and prepares the salads, while on the other side of the room, there are workers restocking the freezer and dethawing hams. Everyone has a role in the kitchen, leaving no room for error as they prepare to serve thousands every day.

After the lunch rush has settled, the rest of the time spent is dedicated to cleaning up and preparing for the next day. Turning on the speakers and tuning in to their favorite playlists, the crew gets ready to go home after setting everything for tomorrow. 

“Outside of school, I like walking, traveling and love watching movies in my free time. I would love to visit Dubai one day,” Sandra Burch said.

Running the kitchen is not a clock in and clock out type of job. There is a lot of preparation ahead to ensure fresh ingredients for students. Davis is in charge of ordering inventory for the kitchen Friday, then on Monday comes in the shipment where cafeteria worker Luis Manuel helps out with unloading into the stockroom.

“I’ve been here for 15 years, and my single motivation is here,” Manuel said. “Coming everyday and working here gets me going in the morning, and everyone here is family to me. Don’t get me wrong, not everything is perfect in life but this job helps me get through each day and once I’m in the workplace, I love being here.”

Each member in the kitchen has their own schedules each day, whether it be picking up their kids or preparing for errands at home. Yet, they share the same mutual feeling: they love taking care of their students and see the staff as one big family. They see the students as their own kids and strive to take care of them as so. 

One of the lunch ladies, Catalina Valera, also has more on her plate after work. She then takes care of her child who is disabled, while also preparing to clean and cook around the house. 

“My day is busy – when I get home I have a child with a disability, and never rest,” Valera said. “I work here everyday, and have a good relationship here with everyone, it’s like a family. I’ve been here for 12 years.”

The cafeteria staff do more than just serve lunch. Burch does catering on the side, selling food to cantinas. The cafeteria manager hopes to start her own program at Krop, helping students with financial issues and educating them when it comes to investing and money organization. 

“Outside of work, I’m doing something which I’m really compassionate about,” Davis said. “I do financial coaching, advising people. One of my goals is to finalize a contract here at Krop to teach kids about financing.”

While it’s easy to judge the quality of the school food, let’s take a second to stand back and look at who is even preparing it for us. Making sure thousands of kids are fed is not an easy task, yet the cafeteria staff does it every day in the morning and during lunch while sharing a kitchen with another school. Our school’s lunch crew work diligently each day with a smile on their faces, eager to serve students.