Written by: Corrie King, FoodCorps Service Member with San Diego Unified School District
Food is often the first thing that comes to mind when the topic of transforming school lunch is brought to the table. However, real change in the lunch room will not happen unless we appreciate and honor those who are with the children daily: the cafeteria staff.Every weekday morning, 1,400 Food and Nutrition Service employees across the San Diego Unified School District arrive at their school kitchen to start preparing 135,000 student meals. Some of them have been working for the district for over 30 years. Many of the employees know the students by name and even their favorite school lunch meal. At the majority of school sites, the hardworking team not only serves lunch, but breakfast and supper as well.
As the district moves toward a more scratch-cooking approach focusing on local procurement, cafeteria workers are now preparing and cooking meals on site. Local fruits and vegetables from the Harvest of the Month program are washed and cut to be served on the salad bar. The staff cooks hundreds of Mary’s Chicken drumsticks to be served for California Thursdays, and cuts fresh avocados for salads.
“I love the new direction we are headed. With California Thursdays, the fruits and vegetables that we serve come from our wonderful state of California,” says Sophia Glover, a cafeteria site supervisor at Morse High School.
San Diego Unified encourages cafeteria workers to take pride in the work that they do because they are the ones who interact daily with students and help create healthy and positive school lunch environments.
“My favorite part of my job is seeing the children enjoy what they are eating and knowing that it is also healthy for them,” says Sophia. “I do what I do because I love to cook and I love being around children – they keep me young at heart.”
Cafeteria site leader Shelly Lofy from Jerabek Elementary says, “My goal is to make sure they feel heard and they know that the Food and Nutrition Service is here for them. They are my customers! Most importantly, my goal is that they learn good eating habits by introducing them to the Harvest of the Month. My hope is that this is a learning environment for each and every student who enters!”
So, to all of you who strive to impart healthy habits and to the many who serve lunches with smiles, thank you. Thank you for being part of this movement toward a better school lunch system.
About the Author: Corrie volunteered a significant amount of time with Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center before joining FoodCorps as a service member with San Diego Unified School District. This service term she is supporting one of the largest school districts by promoting salad bars, Harvest of the Month and conducting frequent taste tests in school cafeterias.
San Diego Unified School District – Food and Nutrition Services is committed to providing healthy school meals and snacks to the students of San Diego Unified in order to support student academic success and promote healthful eating habits that lead to lifelong positive nutrition practices. SDUSD provides more than 135,000 meals and snacks per day to students and staff throughout the district, and employs more than 1,400 team members. Learn more here.
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. To find out more, please visit their website.