At 5 a.m., some students may be realizing that they have successfully pulled an all-nighter, others may be catching the sunrise, but most are fast asleep. While school remains a few hours away for all, cafeteria staff members are already beginning their morning scramble to open the doors of the cafeteria at 8 a.m.
This was not always the case for the cafeteria staff. Andrew Morrison, the UHS Kitchen Supervisor explained that due to being short-staffed this school year, cafeteria staff start their days at 5 a.m. as opposed to the usual 6 a.m. This year, cafeteria staff members face a variety of new problems brought on by the pandemic. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of students eating school meals—more than double the amount of a normal school year—and major supply chain issues.
In addition to preparing food for students, keeping track of the cafeteria inventory, and logging transactions at the counter, cafeteria staff are also involved with many other programs on campus. They often work with Eco Club campaigns, take interviews with the school newspaper, and take on various other initiatives that often go unnoticed.
For the cafeteria staff, the hectic rush from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. does not detract from their love of serving students.
“I think it’s great! I love it. To me, I would rather give away food, free, to kids. Food should be free to all the students,” Morrison said.
Sharing Morrison’s eagerness for serving students, staff member Olga Moran shared an interaction with a student that stood out to her from nine years ago. The student touched her with his words of appreciation to cafeteria staff members. She particularly remembers him telling her about his negative experiences with cafeteria staff at a different school, to which Moran expressed her deep concern, saying that, “Cafeteria staff members are here to serve with kindness.” Moran has a simple message: “Eating is the best moment, so enjoy the meals.”
This year, the cafeteria staff said goodbye to an extremely valued member, Sue Lee, who now works at Northwood High School.
“A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Even if we are having a tough day, a sunny smile or even a simple ‘How are you doing today?’ can make someone else’s day,” Lee said. Lee also encourages students to share the diverse things they learn about, and their classes, and latest sports games with the cafeteria staff, who are always eager to listen.
While breaks and lunch blocks are always a mad grab and dash in the cafeteria, cafeteria staff members are here to provide on-the-go meals for us, but more importantly, they are here to facilitate our time in high school, and a constant reminder to be kind and look out for one another. Cafeteria staff members are often blurred into the background of our high school experience, but just like any other person we meet, there is always something to learn from them.