Lunch ladies adjust to change in service

Devon Yoder
Staff Writer

For most people, lunch was one of the best parts of the school day. And why wouldn’t it be? You got to hang out with your friends, and enjoy a nice meal. Some people brought their own lunch from home, but lots more got their lunch from the school itself, and that wouldn’t be possible without the help of the cafeteria workers.

Every day, the cafeteria workers had to make hundreds of lunches for the students, all within a timespan of around four to five hours, just to provide lunch for kids that couldn’t bring their own. Naturally, with a job that gives its workers as little time as this one, you would expect things to be quite stressful in the kitchen. However, that isn’t actually the case, as every cafeteria worker works hard, so that not only will they get each lunch completed in time, but they make sure it will be a lunch as great as the last.

One of these cafeteria workers is the food service manager, Ramona Talley, who has been working for 41 years. She could be considered the head of the kitchen, as she’s in charge of everyone, and is in charge of ordering all the food for the meals. She also was in charge of preparing the food for the Mexican food section of the upstairs cafeteria, such as the rice and beans. Due to her creativity and experience with making high school cafeteria food, it’s safe to say that the food wouldn’t be nearly as good if she wasn’t so dedicated.

“Making lunch in such a short time isn’t really that bad,” Talley said. “We all each have our own jobs, and so it kind of spreads out. It can be sometimes, but other than that I think it goes pretty good.”

She doesn’t just make food for the students, she also prepares food for board members, such as sandwich platters, fruit trays and cookies.

“My favorite part of working here is the kids,” Talley said. “And I like to be creative. But my least favorite part is when children are rude.”

One of the most special menus Talley prepares is the Thanksgiving dinner for the students, which includes classic Thanksgiving food such as turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. In fact, it’s so popular that even district office staff such as superintendent Aaron Bayer come to enjoy this delicious meal.

“I love doing Thanksgiving dinner,” Talley said. “I would much rather cook like that than the way I do now. Having one big meal and everybody eating it, I think that’s awesome.”

For the longest time, school lunches were prepared the same way every day for school. However, all of that changed completely once the quarantine was set into motion. Now, they still need to prepare lunches, but they can’t serve them to the students at school like they used to. So, every weekday, some of the cafeteria workers go back to the school, prepare a tremendous amount of lunches, and disperse them to students around the community.

The food doesn’t really have the same amount of variety as it did when school was still in session. An average lunch usually consists of an apple, a bag of vegetables, a box of raisins, milk, string cheese, and some sort of breakfast or lunch item, such as a sandwich, or a muffin. So, even though it isn’t the same as the Mexican food served daily at the school, it still is enough to be a plentiful meal.

“It’s been a lot busier here,” Talley said. “Time is not the same. You have to do a whole lot more at one time.”

Even with this sudden new work schedule, that hasn’t stopped the cafeteria workers from doing their best with what they have, so that each lunch is made with the same quality as it was at the school.

After getting a school lunch every day for months, it’s easy to overlook all the hard-working people that have to prepare all that food for the students. However, it is very important that everyone recognizes just how much time and effort is put into each lunch option every day, especially regarding current conditions. Without the group of cafeteria workers that we currently have, we wouldn’t have nearly as much variety and quality in the food as we do right now.

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