Serving Up Success: Northwood lunch ladies dish it out

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Cafeteria worker Jacqueline Brady serves lunch to students. Adrianne Cleven/The Omniscient.

Each day, over 500 teens file through the cafeteria lines at Northwood. Some of them pay little attention to those who pre- pare, serve and clean up after their break- fast and lunch.

One of these people is Faye Robinson, who has been the cafeteria manager at Northwood for 14 years. Robinson is lively and animated, overheard insisting, “I don’t holler! I talk very loud.”

Cafeteria workers had to change their schedule with the advent of the Plus 1 and homeroom program, enacted by administra- tion at the beginning of this school year.

“We had two lunches now where we used to have four lunches, and the kids
get to go outside,” cafeteria worker and self-proclaimed “snack room lady” Ven-
na Price said. “Well at first, with the two lunches, we thought we wouldn’t be able to do it. The first two days [of the school year] were hectic, but after that it was a piece of cake.”

As of Oct. 27, Northwood returned to a schedule with four lunches.

This year’s school nutrition regulations have changed as well, altering the manner in which Robinson and her fellow workers run the cafeteria.

“We’re just so restricted in what we can serve and what we can’t,” Robinson said. “Each week you’ve got to have so many grams of this, so much fruit, so many vegetables, not any salt; it’s just really put a bind on the things I can serve the kids. In Chatham County, all the high schools follow the same menu. We have a dieti- tian; she plans our meals. It really has to balance out.”

Filling out paperwork has become a growing portion of a cafeteria worker’s job.

“I hate doing [paperwork],” Robinson said. “[I have to record] everything that
is opened, everything that is disposed, the temperatures when it was taken out of the oven, just anything that goes on in this caf- eteria has to be recorded.”

Though there are trials, Robinson’s fa- vorite part of her job is the student popula-

tion at Northwood.
“I love meeting the kids, especially the

new ones that come in,” she said. “And I guess after the kids have been here for four years now you’ve gotten attached to them and you really hate to see them leave.”

Robinson and the other cafeteria workers see the students from a unique perspective. They serve kids day after day, semester after se- mester, often all the way through a teen’s high school years. Normally, even teachers do not have this kind of long-term relationship with their students.

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Created with Piktochart.

Robinson enjoys “seeing the freshman class come in, and then four years later seeing them getting ready to graduate, feeding them every day and getting close to them.”

She has her own personal perspective about a high school student’s growth.

“[They are] so scared when they first get here, and then about the 11th grade is when they really start to come out,” Robinson said.

Her overall view of the job is one that sever- al cafeteria workers seemed to share.

“We’re getting the kids fed,” Robinson said. “And that’s the main thing.”

– By Adrianne Cleven