A typical day in the Blair cafeteria

Sept. 29, 2019, 4:03 p.m. | By Jasmine Ali | 2 years, 7 months ago

How cafeteria staff get food to hungry Blazers every day

The cafeteria is an essential part of school life for many students at Blair. However, many do not know the intricacies of how the cafeteria functions and what cafeteria staff must do every day to get lunch to Blazers.

A typical school day starts with a few cafeteria workers preparing for breakfast. "We come in the morning and make sure the line is up to par, cook breakfast in the oven and put it out when the kids come to serve it," cafeteria worker Lashawn Thomas says.

Photo: Lashawn Thomas works the lunch line cash register (courtesy of Catherine Lo). Photo courtesy of Catherine Lo.

More workers arrive later in the day in preparation for the lunch rush. The cafeteria staff work four-hour shifts to cover breakfast, lunch or supper. Everybody is assigned a role to get the cafeteria up and running. "When we all get in here, everybody has their position that they have to do, but we work together as a team," cafeteria worker Sylvia Barnes explains.

Cafeteria manager Christine Blanton is in charge of duties such as deciding which workers will work where and what food will be served based on a government-provided menu. Blanton tries to choose foods that Blazers would enjoy. If Blanton believes that kids will not eat a certain lunch, she chooses an alternate meal to get more students in the lunch lines. "We look at the menu and see what's on it for the day and then we'll break it up to see what the kids like versus what they don't like. If they wouldn't eat it, I'm not going to serve it to them," Blanton says.

Blanton also tries to be conscious of Blazers' eating restrictions by keeping certain foods that many students would not be able to eat off the school menu. "We have a lot of kids that don't eat pork, so I don't do cold cuts. I try not to do pork at all in my kitchen," Blanton says.

Since the switch to one-lunch, there has been a significant change in how the cafeteria prepares for lunch. Last year, the cafeteria workers were able to cook lunches in two batches and had more breathing room to prepare for each lunch. With one-lunch, cafeteria workers have to prepare more food at once and have no breaks during this time period. "Lunch is very hectic. One lunch is full of consistent flow, nothing is batch-cooked anymore because everything's got to go out at once," Thomas explains.

One-lunch has also contributed to longer lunch lines this school year. In order to combat the long wait time for lunches, a new cart has been opened on the second floor. "The kiosk is supposed to help us get the lunches out so the kids don't have to wait in line as long," Blanton says.

After lunch ends, staff cleans up and prepares for dinner provided by the supper program. By the end of the school day, two cafeteria workers are left to serve dinner since there are much fewer students getting these meals. However, this reduced amount of staff can be taxing on those who work the afternoon shift. "Workers come in at 2:00 p.m. and begin to serve from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. You’re typically supposed to get a break, but sometimes it's impossible because you have to prepare for 200 to 220 kids, which gets tiresome," Thomas explains.

To keep up with the large number of meals that need to be served, the cafeteria receives deliveries twice a week in the morning before school to restock. "We get deliveries on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have a thousand pieces come in: chicken patties, hot dogs, pizzas, utensils, ketchup, waters, anything and everything that you eat or drink here," Blanton says. After getting these deliveries, staff have to sort through the different products to figure out where to store them.

Due to the cafeteria's fast-paced environment, workers are standing during their entire shift, which can get exhausting. "We're basically on our feet the whole time we're here, from the time we walk in the doors to the time we leave," Barnes says.

Cafeteria workers still enjoy their jobs due to the connections they create with students. "I love my kids, the relationships that I built with my kids," Thomas says. Workers find both the connections made with Blazers and making lunches rewarding. "I love kids and I love food, so what better way of combining them both?" Barnes says.

The cafeteria staff at Blair will continue to be an integral part of the Blair community valued by both students and staff alike for the distant future.

Last updated: Sept. 29, 2019, 4:04 p.m.

Tags: staff feature One Lunch Cafeteria staff

Jasmine Ali. staff writer More »

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