This article was written by Leah Emmons, a junior in the Journalism class at U32.
On Thursday, December 16th, a two hour delay created a lot of stress for the cafeteria team. The staff got there at 7:00 a.m. to start preparing lunch, but fell behind. They would be making lunch as they are served it. It was going to be a long day.
This year has been difficult in the cafeteria. They are understaffed, and have two additional serving times for lunches this year due to a change in the schedule. With lunch being free, the cafeteria serves 100 more lunches than previous years. With no breaks and working overtime, the cafeteria staff is exhausted.
Brian Fischer has been the Food Service Director at U-32 for five years. Before U-32, he worked at Reinhart Food Service. Fischer oversees the cafeteria staff, and is responsible for hiring new employees.
In 2019 the Cafeteria had 6 staff, including Fischer. Last year two workers retired, leaving only 4 people total. So far he has hired one new employee.
Job postings earlier this year in the faculty lounge. There have been many job vacancies across the school over the course of the year.
Currently, there are 5 people working in the kitchen including Fischer.
Hiring people to work in the cafeteria has been a long process. At one point this fall Fischer had nine applications sent in, but none showed up.
“I look for people with a positive attitude, and people who can handle dealing with children on a regular basis,” he explained, “I’m looking for someone who’s a team player and willing to learn.”
Luckily after Thanksgiving the cafeteria hired a new employee.
“The staff are so overwhelmed there’s no room for breaks or time off,” Fischer explained. “Right now no one can even afford to call out.”
This year a decision was made to change the schedule by the school board. The goal was to have a longer school day, and create a separate schedule for the middle school. In result, it has created 2 extra lunches. These two lunches are for 7th and 8th graders, but in doing this, the cafeteria staff are working significantly overtime. The staff’s contract says that they should be out of the kitchen by 1:30, but the last lunch ends at 1:36.
Lunch times throughout the day
Along with this, the plan to add middle school lunches was not communicated to the cafeteria. They were unaware that they would be serving two additional lunch periods, this means that they are working an hour over their contract. The contract says that the team starts at 6:30 AM, and should be leaving the building at 1:30 PM.
Lunch is free this year, causing there to be an increase in lunch orders. Fischer says that from last year there has been 100 more lunch orders than before. With pre ordering it also adds stress for the team to make the right amount of food, so as to not underserved or have leftovers.
Dena Cox, is an employee that works in the cafeteria. She is frustrated with the way covid has affected her job. She says that the new schedule was not communicated, and has left the team working overtime. “ When we are done, we are exhausted,” Cox said.
Dena Cox preparing lunches on an average school day.
The cafeteria has had to even adjust the materials they use because of having to work overtime. “We use paper plates and plastic because otherwise we’d be here that much longer washing dishes at the end of the day,” Cox said.
The cafeteria is making progress. They have opened up a salad bar on Nutrislice. Once they get more staff, they hope to offer the salad bar again. Fischer hopes that the regular everyday food items can come back as well, such as pizza and burgers.
There are ways students can help the understaffed cafeteria. One way to help is pre ordering lunches, including the hot lunch, so that there isn’t too little or too much food at the end of the day. Fischer says that keeping the cafeteria clean is another big help.