Meet the food service staff

Jesus Martinez-Aviles

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Photo/J.Arevalo

The lunch staff takes a group photo before openeing the doors to feed East High students. Left to right : Amber Schmidt, Isata Bayoh, Bob Price, Alsie Carr, Maria Trejo, Carol Jenkins, Keck Liu, Johney Anderson, Rocio Rubalcara, Dawn Weichman

Story/Page editor/J. Martinez- Aviles

The first-floor halls rush with students in line. The staff put their hairnets on. The trays are washed and ready to be served with food. The doors open, and the students flood the room, looking for food to satisfy their hunger. This is a casual day at lunch for the East High cafeteria staff. Though most people might only see them as lunch ladies, the cafeteria staff have normal lives, just like students. Working from early morning breakfast, to afternoon lunch, the cafeteria staff do not disappoint. Cafeteria staff manager Dawn Weichman explains the duties she has at East High as a lunch lady. Running to and from different schools, Weichman works with a variety of staff and students every day.
“I am the food service manager, so I pretty much make sure the staff is running the building the way it is supposed to be ran and I have four buildings. I have East, Harding, Capital View, and Moulton…It’s all new to me this year, but I like it. I feel like I’ve made a big difference,” Weichman said.
Weichman helps every lunch day become a little brighter. She feels that without the hard work and dedication of the lunch staff, the day would basically fall apart. The cafeteria staff hold together every day to work and serve East High students.
“Kitchens are the backbone of schools ‘cause without breakfast or lunch every day, kids would just get hangry,” Weichman said.
A lot of kids around the world do not have access to food at home, so going to a school that gives free food for every student is a privilege. Lunch Lady Carol Jenkins explains the love she has for her job.
“Kids are getting a nutritious meal; I get to interact with kids that aren’t mine. Basically, they get food in their belly. There are some kids who really appreciate it,” Jenkins said.
Like any other family, the lunch staff must work together as a team to get their job done every single day at East.
“I try to consider my staff my family because if we can’t get along, then the day doesn’t function properly,” Weichman said.
While most students do not appreciate clean dishes, hot and cold foods, and a dedication to serve, the staff still make sure the kids get a nutritious meal. Most people might think otherwise, but lunch ladies do have lives and goals outside of school.
“Live every day to its fullest. Don’t look back on the bad things, always look forward…What I tell my daughter is give your best every day and treat everyone as though you want to be treated,” Weichman said.
Making meals for 2,071 students at East High is not easy, especially when the students do not appreciate the gesture. Throwing apples, milk cartons and many more things on the floor and wall. Cafeteria staff Johney Anderson opinionates on the label society has put upon them.
“I think sometimes we are stereotyped because we are lunch ladies. And some people don’t want to have a lot of conversation with us because they probably think we are not as educated as some of the teachers or peers,” Anderson said.
Though the heat of criticism is tough, the lunch staff are strong to reject it. Anderson continues to explain how she copes with the misconception of lunch ladies.
“I have high self-esteem, so I have a good outside life, but for some of the other people, it makes me sad that they are stereotyped…If I see that someone is struggling or someone is sad, I tell them that tomorrow is a new day. I always try to make sure that I tell them to hang in there, get their education. It’s very important to get your education,” Anderson said.
Anderson likes to work at East but she feels like there should be more authority over the behavior of the students. Many times, lunch ladies will be disrespected and called names and have bad things said about them, behind their backs, and even in front of their faces. The bad thing is, they feel like they do not have support from the East Staff when such things occur. Also, lunch staff cannot retaliate because they will get in trouble. Due to this obstacle, they must stay silent.

“75 percent of me feels respected, 25 percent doesn’t. Some of the employees here, that can help, I just wish they would come in and intervene in a lot of the actions that are being done during lunch time. They will let it go and they don’t do anything about it. They don’t reinforce any punishment or anything,” Anderson said.
While most students are not grateful for the lunch provided to them at East, sophomore Kosha Shaddin not only eats the school lunch, but appreciates the hard work the lunch ladies do for students every day.
“I think lunch food is really healthy to eat because you get fruits and vegetables, and those are really healthy…I think the lunch ladies are really nice. I like how if you forget a fruit, they remind you and tell you to at least get a fruit. They try to help you be healthy,” Shaddin said.
Shaddin has a deep respect for the lunch ladies. She admires their hard work and dedication to making meals for a lot of students. When asked if the lunch staff get enough recognition, Shaddin reveals her opinion.
“I feel like they don’t get appreciated that much, because I don’t know, they think they’re lunch ladies and they don’t matter, but they do. They do work a lot; they cook for us… I feel like people take advantage of that. Other people don’t treat them that well. They say ‘good morning’ and ‘how are you’ and some people just walk back and don’t even say anything back,” Shaddin said.
While ‘lunch lady’ is the term people use to call the cafeteria workers, most of the workers would prefer to be called something a little more professional, or at least something a little more respectful. This comes from the fact that a lot of students disrespect the cafeteria workers by calling them rude names and cussing them out.
“I wish there was a better term than saying lunch lady… We can also go by food service workers, general worker, cook, assistant cook, manager. I think if you say, ‘hey, there is the food service lady,’ that might be a little bit nicer than ‘hey, there is the lunch lady,’” Weichman said.
Lunch ladies should have the respect from any student from any school. The simple fact of these people going out of their way to get a job in service, where they can serve others should be enough for the students to be appreciative. This job ranges from cooking, to cleaning the kitchen, which in fact, is a job most students would be too lazy to commit to. It is time to start recognizing the people behind the oven.