BY PRISCILLA CABALLERO
As students approach lunchtime, crunch time begins for the cafeteria workers. The aroma of pizza and spicy chicken burgers wafts over lines students rush toward, while behind the counter Carmel High cafeteria workers are cramming in orders of food requested by students.
Not everyone realizes how much hard work and dedication is put into a typical day as a food services worker and what it takes to get the job done.
“Right after arriving to the school, you have to be very fast,” says cafeteria worker Helen Kim, pointing out coworker Lisa Jacobson as an example. “She works three and a half hours, so at lunchtime and break we have to prepare around those times to sell everything. It’s kind of crazy.”
Not everything behind the kitchen is just a fishnet cap and a pair of gloves. The amount of dedication and time a cafeteria worker spends to prepare food for hungry students takes all day.
Currently, the cafeteria at CHS alone consists of a total of 11 employees during the day, the majority of whom are women, according to Denise McGregor, CUSD supervisor of food services.
“I have seven part-time employees and one full-time employee working at CHS,” McGregor adds. “Seven are female and one is male. In addition to those employees, my three delivery men, once being finished delivering to the elementary sites, work certain days serving lunch at CHS.”
Behind the counter where students pay, busy workers come from different directions and all have different shifts. Some workers get here at 10 in the morning, some arrive at 9 in the morning and continue throughout the day until around half-past 2 or later.
“We plan, order, create, cook, pack, wait on students, do book work required by the state of California and count money, but most of all sanitize our kitchen,” kitchen manager Pam Weaver adds.
In the morning, workers rotate for a certain time and rotate once again after lunch. Some workers wash dishes while someone dries them. Some even have a role of collecting trays, stock and food.
Kim, who comes from Marina, describes a typical day as very busy and fast.
Not only do the cafeteria workers cook food at CHS, but they also distribute all around the district, daily transporting to Carmel Middle School, River Elementary School, Captain Cooper Elementary School, Carmel Valley High School and Tularcitos Elementary School. That is a major reason why food service employees cook in bigger quantities and why the schools make a variety of dishes.
After lunch, workers regroup to bring all the dishes back to CMS after 1 p.m. Workers start washing dishes, including trays, from every school site, repeating this routine every weekday.
“I hope the students do not throw the food away,” cafeteria worker Maria Hizon comments. “I hope they eat it.”
Jacobson reports that CHS receives deliveries twice a week and that the job is quite physical.
“A lot of stuff gets delivered here: produce, fruit and all the stuff in the freezer, all the hash browns,” Jacobson says. “We have to put away cases of bananas and carrots and apples and oranges, so it’s very physical and a lot of hard work.”
Weaver continues to manage and organize the flow of the kitchen production at CHS every day.
“In the last twenty-five years of feeding CUSD, I have learned one thing is true,” she says. “One in six are happy, the other five have little comment. But that’s a lot of happy kids, considering we make 900 to 1,000 meals a day.”