This story is unchanged from the version which appeared in print. The original article was published in "The Hazelwood West Gazette" on October 3,1997.

"More to Making Lunch Than Meets the Eye"

We whine too much.

At least, that is how it seems to me. So many students grumble and make fun of school food in line, saying things like "What is that?" "Disgusting!" or "This is taking too long!" I wondered what the women who have to deal with serving lunch to high school students for several hoursa day thought about it.

Cafeteria manager Mrs. Joellen Pruett surprised me when she said she preferred working with us to the elementary children she used to serve at Garrett. "I like talking with them one on one more as adults," she said.

I asked her about all the complaints. "Sometimes they're right," she said. "It may look terrible and I may agree with them, but that's what we're serving."

A lot of students voice their gripes directly to the food servers, and the servers usually pass those comments on to Mrs. Pruett. "There is negativity, bu that's okay, because how else will we know what they want?"

This year there is a new approach to serving food in the cafeteria. In a meeting this year, the cafeteria workers developed a strategy to try and "mend the fences" with students. The ideas is simple: Be nicer to the students, and the students will be nice in return.

Has this idea worked so far? "There has been a big difference this year," said Mrs. Patti Rowland, one of the servers. Reacting to complaints with a smile, being friendly, and realizing that a student might have had a bad day has helped create a more courteous relationship.

I like the idea of cooperation to help make getting lunches a little friendlier. But cooperation goes both ways, so it is important that we, as students, not get frustrated when our food isn't perfect.

There are many reasons that there are mistakes from time to time. According to Mrs. Pruett, there have been problems with distributors delivering less good than she ordered. Mrs. Pruett, as the manager, is responsible for estimating how many students will eat the different foods offered for each meal, and then ordering the food. From time to time, we surprise her by eating much more or less than she expected. These are two of the major reasons that students who have third lunch often end up with a different main course than what is on the menu.

Then there are the french fries. Mrs. Rowland emphasized that students do not realize how hard it is putting about 1400 lunches together everyday.

Mrs. Pruett told me about the art of frenchfrying. There is one person who spends her shift frying, frying, and frying. The fry-person will usually start around 10:20 a.m. and not finish until 1:20 p.m. It's a long, hot job with lots of pressure to get the fries out so they can be served.

Sometimes the fries are taken out too early in an attempt to meet this demand, and that is where the soggy fries come from. As you might expect, occasionally the fry-person leaves them in a little too long, resulting in harder fries. When you consider all that is going on behind the scenes, though, I think they do a very good job of putting out good fries most of the time.

If something about your meal isn't right, instead of complaining about it or insulting people who make your food, why not politely tell them how you feel and what you want? Mrs. Pruett pointed out that she can't do anything about problems if she isn't told about them.

"We are here to please you," Mrs. Pruett said. "We want you to be happy and give you what you want. When you don't get it, we aren't happy either. We really do want to please you and we want the finished product to look good."

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