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Super-food heroes

The+lunchroom+staff+gathers+together+to+celebrate+the+night+of+October+31%2C+Halloween.+
The lunchroom staff gathers together to celebrate the night of October 31, Halloween.

The lunchroom staff gathers together to celebrate the night of October 31, Halloween.

The lunchroom staff gathers together to celebrate the night of October 31, Halloween.

Grace Tripathy, Online Features Editor

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School cafeteria workers are just one of the many groups of people that contribute to children’s educations. They work alongside teachers, coaches, counselors, librarians and other school personnel to help children get the most out of their school years.

They’re the ones encouraging kids to try healthy, fresh foods like catfish, sweet potatoes, rutabaga and squash. Suggesting that they try chocolate milk before sports practice to increase their endurance. Teaching them the difference between mandarin oranges and peaches, and how to tell if a navel orange is sweet. That a purple carrot tastes … pretty much just like an orange one.

Cafeteria managers make sure cafeteria workers have the food and supplies they need to serve all the items on the menus. The cafeteria workers frequently check their inventory of food and supplies so they can alert their managers when they notice that they might not have what they need. Doing this requires moving heavy boxes and equipment.

Cafeteria workers often perform cashier duties. They take the children’s payments for breakfasts and lunches and make changes as appropriate. They must be aware of which children receive government-subsidized free or reduced-price meals.

Kari Demos (A La Carte Cashier)

How did you get into school nutrition?

“I was a hair stylist for thirty years and I kinda had to give it up for a bunch of different reasons; I still do it a little bit but not much. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself and I wanted to work in the food industry. I think I wanted this job mostly because of the hours; to be off summers and to not work weekends or very long hours. Since I wasn’t really qualified in any other field, you know, after doing hair for so long, my sister who’s very good with computers found me this job in food service and they wanted a cashier at the school. So I came in and I really liked the manager and I really liked the kids and it’s just a really fun place to work.”

How have you bonded with the students at Barrington High School?

“I love so many of these students, it’s not even funny. They make me laugh. On football Fridays, everyone comes in all excited wishing me a happy Friday. And I love seeing everyone all dressed up on homecoming week. It’s been a while- a long while since I’ve been in high school, but it seems like yesterday. It really, truly seems like yesterday. I don’t have my own kids so for me, kinda reliving that and just being around y’all-I want it to help keep me young!”

What do people not know about your job?

“Oh wow. Well, this job is practically a full day work out! I tend to work the cashier, but when you add on stocking and restocking the shelves and fridges, running back and forth from here to the kitchen, and assisting others; it definitely becomes a lot. Trust me, I love my job, but I’m sure people have no idea what kind of work this is. It’s not easy, but what work is easy?”

The lunch ladies have left their mark on the school. To the hard-working individuals who prepare healthy meals for thousands of students and staff every single day: Thank you to the lunch ladies and all of the lunchroom staff!

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