Lunch Ladies Dish Out Hard Work

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Litzy Rodriguez, Reporter

The nutrition service employees at South Houston High School start their day at 6 a.m. by turning on the ovens and warmers so they can start serving breakfast at 6:30 a.m. On Tuesdays they have to be at school even earliera��5:30 a.m.’so they can unload about 700 boxes of food that will feed 1,900 students for the week. Students who line up at the cafeteria every school day probably have little idea of how those hot slices of pizza get onto their plates.

 

The lunch ladies dress to protect themselves and the students they serve. For example, the staff puts on big, warm jackets and slip-resistant shoes that grip the icy floor of the walk-in freezer that is 10 degrees F below zero and holds meat and other frozen foods. Nets and gloves prevent bacteria on hair and hands from infecting the food. A cooler that is more like a refrigerator than a freezer stores milk, juice, veggies, fruits, butter etc. so that food can stay fresh. All the food in the storage room have expiration dates so anything they give out to students is never outdated and, therefore, potentially harmful.

 

Breakfast is served for about 500 students. The meal includes cereal, milk, fruit, yogurt, biscuits and other basic breakfast essentials for the students to have a good amount of energy throughout the day. At 9 a.m. the lunch ladies start prepping for lunch. They begin by heating up the warmers and ovens up to 170 degrees for a pizza that cooks in 8 to 10 minutes or to bake fries that take about 12 minutes to cook.

 

These are not home cooks who use a pinch of this or that. The lunch ladies have to follow strict rules when preparing meals. Every time they turn on an oven or a warmer they have to keep a record of the temperatures they put the oven at, because the food is so delicate. The food can’t be overcooked or the students may be at risk for contracting food poisoning. The lunch ladies want to provide a healthy meal for all students. A guide is followed for every meal they make. The guide contains how long they cook certain foods or how much salt they have to put on them. Every single meal can’t go over 750 calories. Food is made for about 1,800 to 1,900 students every day. Maria McEvilly, assistant manager of the nutrition service employees at SHHS, said, “Sometimes it is hard for us because, for example, we make pizza for 500 kids and 600 show they want it,” McEvilly said. “We’re ready to go and make more, but we can’t just make a lot and hope it goes because then it may just go to waste.”

 

The work can be hard but also rewarding. “I love my job and I enjoy cooking and working with the students. It means a lot to me because sometimes it’s the first food some of these kids get or if any at all,” McEvilly said.

 

After all the lunches end, the lunch ladies finally get a chance for a break and eat lunch themselves. They usually bring lunch to school because they can’t cook food in the kitchen. When the clock hits 2:30 p.m., they all head home to their families after a long day of work, to return the next day at 6 a.m.