By, Carissa Vargas
Everyone knows them, students trust them with their food, and they always know what the school is serving for the day. Rarely does anyone stop to have a conversation with the person serving their food. Cafeteria ladies are responsible for getting the food where it needs to go, they are the people behind the food, literally. Their food carts and small lunch windows separate them from the rest of the school. They tell students how to get free reduced lunch at the beginning of every year. They enforce those healthy food requirements students may have otherwise neglected, and they deal with hungry, grumpy students with patience. Here are their stories:
Q: Could you go through and explain how your average work day schedule works?
A: For me it’s different because I’m a student. I am twenty, working as a cafeteria lady. I wake up at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays because I have school at eight. And then I get off around 9:50 a.m. and get here around 10 o’clock. And then coming here at 10 o’clock, that’s when I start. I come in, put my apron on, and my hair net, yes [laughing]. And then start with whatever the boss asks for us to do. We basically go on a rotation.
Q: How does your rotation work?
A: So it’s like, one week, maybe I’m doing sides. So I come in and I get the sides out, whatever you guys need for your side meals. And then immediately from that I go into serving breakfast, then for that we go to main dishes. Me, myself, will do the main dishes and I’ll finish up my sides. Then I’ll go on my personal lunch, then we prepare you guys for lunch as well. We set up for lunch, then we do lunch, clean everything up, and then start again the next day.
Monica de Santiago
Q: So what is your average day like?
A: Well, I usually wake up at 6. I start at 9:40. I only work three and a half hours.
Q: What do you handle while you’re here? What’s your usual job?
A: We rotate, we do different jobs. But I’m the new one.
Q: So you’re still learning the ropes?
A: Yeah, I’m still kind of learning almost every single thing. So I just help them or do whatever the manager wants me to do. We usually rotate, so we do a bit of everything.
Q: Is this your only job, or do you work other places? Are you in school, like Alisha?
A: No, I’m not. I go back home and I cook for my husband and then the days is over.
Every staff member of Bonita Vista High School is their own person, with their own lives. They have duties and families outside of the few glimpses students get with them in a day. The lunch ladies are rarely known for anyone other than the person who tells you what today’s lunch menu is. Their aprons lack even the most basic of personalization, without even a name to declare who they are when they are not behind the school’s standard blue garb. Next time you are at the front of the line, grabbing your lunch, maybe stop and remember to thank the person behind the food.