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Utah Lunch Lady Goes Rouge!

The media loves a good firestorm.  A lunch lady in Utah took away lunches from students who have no lunch money and now the media is drooling over the firestorm created by the parents due to their child not getting lunch…one day…. 

I have an idea that I think could solve the problem even though I know there’s no way it can be done. How about every time a student doesn't have lunch money the lunch lady hits a button and the parents/guardian are not allowed to eat lunch that day.   Techie’s, can you come up with this????  Surely if we can send a woman to the moon, we can come up with a simple device that can make this happen.  Maybe a wrist bracelet that every parent or guardian has to wear and when there’s no money for their child’s lunch, a little shock goes off or maybe it glows neon pink or maybe an alarm goes off saying “You may not eat lunch today.”  Ahh, come on, wouldn't that be great?  Put the responsibility where it belongs!

I would love to speak with the lunch lady/supervisor who must have had some reason for finally taking action and doing something about a problem.   I am sure there is a lot more to the story than what we are hearing, but the media doesn't want to tell all sides of the story, only the side that creates the most havoc.

Maybe she was feeling so disrespected by the kids, principal, administrators that she finally snapped.  Maybe her supervisor was hounding her to get unpaid monies back from the parents.  Lunch ladies are not collection agents, we are limited with what we can do but we are constantly being told to do all we can to get money back from students who owe.  Maybe she felt she had no control of anything that was going on in her kitchen so she decided to take action and get some control back. 

School districts are owed thousands, some hundreds of thousands of dollars in lunch money.  But there is not a darn thing we can do about it.  Remember that all school districts have a Free and Reduced Lunch Program so most likely, the students who owed did not qualify for this program.  But every year the parent/guardian must apply for the program.  Your previous year status of free or reduced lunch goes away in October and you must have done the paperwork to be eligible for the program again.  However, most schools have students whose parents/guardians never bothered to fill in the paperwork until they racked up charges of a week, month or more. The government does not reimburse the school district for charges that occurred due to the parent not filling out the paperwork in a timely manner. 

Maybe this supervisor had heard enough excuses or maybe she was tired of no responses from the numerous letters or phone calls she made to parents/guardians.  Maybe she was tired of being dumped on, being given more and more work, with no raise. 
As far as the lunch lady dumping the tray out into the trash, that is what we have to do.  Any lunch that goes onto the student’s tray is not allowed to be given to another student since it left our hands.  Board of Health regulations say we have to throw it out.  It could have been sneezed on, touched, compromised in many different ways.  The meals had to be thrown in the trash if she was taking it away.

Now I’m not saying in any way, shape, or form that we should take lunches away from students.  I’m saying there needs to be a way to handle unpaid lunch accounts.  We need logical consequences, something that nobody seems to understand these days.  No one wants to own up to not being responsible. 

I remember one time when my son was in elementary school and he forgot his lunch money or lunch.  So long ago, I don’t remember but I DO remember the school’s policy was for the child to call home and tell the parent he didn't have lunch so he would have to charge.  I remember I got the message when I got home. And I called the school and said that he should not have left a message saying “I” didn't give him lunch money.  I told the school that HE was responsible for making sure he had his lunch money or lunch and that I would have been perfectly fine if he did not have lunch that day since HE forgot to take his money or lunch. 

But parents nowadays don’t feel that way.  Everything is someone else’s fault.  Someone else is to blame.  Or they say “I’m to blame so why punish the child?”  Unfortunately we can’t punish the ones responsible.  Unless of course, you techie’s come through for me and hook me up with something that will have the parent be responsible.  Just a little shock…. Or just a bright neon blinking light that says to the world “I DIDN'T GIVE MY KID A LUNCH OR LUNCH MONEY TODAY.” 
The only other comment I will say is I get it.  I get how she feels. I understand.   Lunch ladies all over are saying “Wow, she did that?”  I won’t say what we are silently saying in our inside our head voice.  That could get me in trouble. 
So let the media have their heyday, they’ll forget all about it once the next “Big” story comes along.  Maybe Justin Bieber will not be allowed to have lunch in prison. 

Will Lunch Ladies Ever Get Respect?

You’ve heard them.  The comments about lunch ladies or cafeteria workers on television shows, or maybe on the radio.  We are the Rodney Dangerfield of the work force.  WE GET NO RESPECT.  Instead of adjusting our tie, as Rodney used to do when he said it, we adjust our hairnet.

This week alone, I heard two disrespectful comments about lunch ladies/cafeteria workers on TV.  “Modern Family” and “The Neighbors” both did so this week.  You would think these two shows in particular, would have a little respect since both shows are about people/things (Aliens??) from all different walks of life.  Seriously, a show about Aliens making fun of lunch ladies?  And Modern Family, a show with cultural and life style differences talking about the cafeteria staff being the lowest level in the School hierarchy.  Good Lord!   Yes, I know it’s probably true, but come on, don’t say it out loud, especially where kids can hear!
This week at school our kids were so loud and unruly that my staff needed me to address the issue.  So, in an email to our principal, I told him that we are feeling disrespected and that I would send any student that gives us problems to him.  This week, I had had enough.  We always give the kids some slack around the holidays, but the holidays are gone and now we need to be able to do our job without using our outside voices in the lunch line. (Using our “Outside” voices is a nice way to say screaming and yelling.)

Our issue was addressed by the principal and teachers which did help.  I also implemented some new procedures to help with the noise and confusion in the lunch line.  We’ll see how it goes.

But my point for this post is: How can we get the students respect when we are constantly being made fun of, disrespected and bashed in the media?  I think I have tried to change the perception of the lunch lady by giving facts about myself, volunteering to speak in classrooms, and trying to be an example of the behavior we want to see but then, all it takes is a day like Tuesday and its all shot to hell!

One of my favorite speeches of all times is Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream Speech.”  It gives me goose bumps and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.  Martin Luther King was looking for respect and thank God, things changed due to his involvement.  As Martin Luther King Day approaches, I would like to use a few lines of his and say, “I have a dream too, a dream that one day, every lunch lady and cafeteria worker will someday be respected and loved.  A dream where we can hold our heads up high and proudly say I am a Lunch Lady.  I serve nutritious lunches to students.  I am valuable to our school and our students.  A good lunch is the reason students do better on tests.  I work hard to ensure the safety of the food I serve.  I take my job seriously.  I am worthy of everyone’s respect.”

That’s my rant for today.  If you’re a lunch lady, enjoy Monday off.  Spend some time reflecting on all the things you do that deserves respect.  Ultimately, we’re all looking for it and deserving of it.  If you’re not a lunch lady, give a smile to a lunch lady, cafeteria worker or fast food clerk.  They would love it and respect you for it.  

Starting Over....Again....

Feels like I have started all over again.  This year I have over about 370 new students plus some (Approximately 115) students that were already going to our school.  Our district closed an elementary school and had to decide what to do with all the students that went to that school.  They decided, with the help of a very very strong Home and School Association, to send all of the students to one school instead of redistricting the boundaries.  Then they shipped most of the students that went to my school to another school.  Obviously my school didn't have as strong a Home and School Association.  There were many factors that went into the decision, which I shouldn't mention here, but the point for me here is I had to practically start over.

You may think kids are kids and that a school only a few miles away wouldn't be a big deal as to their taste and needs but you would think wrong.  They like different items, have different tastes and different needs.  We have many more free and reduced students now which means more guaranteed meal sales and they don’t usually buy as many snacks.  That’s the good and bad news.  Good we have more government reimbursable meals but bad they don’t buy as many snacks since we need the sales to fund our department.

We are muddling through and getting the job done but many days I feel as though I have started a new job and beginning again.
Speaking of our Food Service Department being fully funded by our departments sales, I would like to talk about some little things people don’t think of such as using the condiments and plastic ware our department purchases.  Now, a fully funded department means that our department makes enough money to fund our salaries, benefits, pension fund, food, and all equipment.  When you look at our school districts budget you will see it has all “Zeros” where it says the money the school district needs to put into our department . Z E R O dollars!  Check out your school district.  Budgets are always posted on the district website.  Probably have to be there by law.

In our school we provide the plastic ware and condiments for the students who buy lunch.  Up until two weeks ago I always had a cart that had plastic ware out in the cafeteria so the students didn't have to come back in through the serving line to get their forgotten plastic ware.  However, we got a note from our Director asking us to monitor the plastic ware and keep them close to the cashier so that the students are taking one spoon and one fork.  (Kids like one spoon and/or fork for every item) We were asked to monitor the packers who take our plastic ware since they should not be using it.

Well you can see where this is going.  I brought in the cart with the plastic ware and said packers shouldn't be using our plastic ware since…. HELLO! They didn't buy lunch.  As you can imagine this didn't go over well.  I told my Director there was a backlash from the lunch monitors about the packers not being able to use our plastic ware since little Johnny doesn't have anything to eat his canned peaches his mother sent in with his packed lunch.  My boss said she would send an email out to the parents saying they need to send in their own plastic ware.

The next day the principal came in and told me until the letter goes out to the parents, you will be giving plastic ware to anyone who needs them.  Case closed.  I told him I didn't understand why people think that plastic ware for packers should be supplied by our department and why parents don't understand this concept. 

Regardless, I told my boss and she said just monitor the students.  It sounded as if there would be no letter going home. 
Now you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal”, how much could some plastic ware cost?  The reason we were told to monitor the use is our department has already went through the plastic ware that should have lasted us through January.  So what, order more you would think.  And, I guess we did.

So my problem with this whole situation is why do people feel  entitled to use the Food Service Departments plastic ware and condiments.  Students bring in their bagged lunches and use our condiments too.  Maybe its education.  Parents need to be educated about how the school district budgets work. We are a business, just like McDonalds or Subway.   I’ve heard many many times over the years  “My tax dollars pay for your salary” or “My tax dollars pay for that plastic ware.”  Ah.. no they don’t!

And one more thing, would you go into McDonalds or Subway and take their plastic ware and walk out?  What would they call it?  You may get away with it a time or two until someone takes notice but sooner or later they will come over to you and ask what you’re doing.  It would be, after all, considered stealing.  Its never considered stealing in a school.  It’s called my tax dollars pay for that plastic ware.  Again, no they don’t.

Is it a battle worth fighting, absolutely NOT!  As my dad would say, “Case Closed.”  I've put it in a bubble and blown it away. 

Did You Ever Feel Like??

Do you ever feel like your going against a strong tide?  I'll bet you have.  That's how I feel about our 2012-2013 school food service year.  I was paddling all year, upstream.  You know what happens when you continue paddling upstream.  You get exhausted.

The year started off simple enough.  I’ve been a manager for about 13 years so another year is no big deal right?  Well, lunch counts were down and new regulations in place so we were asked to trim hours and work within the confines of the regs.  Ok, I trimmed.. just a bit. 

The rest of the year it seemed that I had to fight for our team for everything.  It didn’t help that it was an “Agreement” year.  That means that our school district and our food service department “Negotiate” (And I use that term very very loosely) a new agreement. 

Knowing we had this to do, when lunch counts were down, felt like a heavy lead suit, weighing me down.  I always help with the “Agreement.” I like to be spokesperson for our group.  I’m told I do well with these conversations, which is due to my “Toastmasters” experience.  I’ve been a Toastmaster for six years, giving speeches and learning leadership skills.

This year with the new regulations and recipes there always seemed to be something new which usually means more work, more paperwork, more computer time and new software, and more things to deal with.  Exhausting!

All year I was the one to confront our Food Service Director about all the various changes and what it meant for the managers and our staff.  Each time, it felt like going against the tide.  It didn’t help that the department itself didn’t know all the new regulations.  ¼ cup of mashed potatoes today might be ½ cup tomorrow.  1 ounces of taco meat today might be 3 ounces tomorrow.  Geezzzzz.  Exhausting! Constant questions from staff and students looking for answers that I did not have. 

When we finally did get around to our agreement, it didn’t go well.  School districts say they are broke.  Pension costs increase so where do they want to get the money from?  Our pockets.  I know there are haters out there who don’t think we should even have Government pensions, and I say, I took and stay at this job due to pension and medical benefits.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job, but it’s getting harder and harder to continue with a job that is only 9 months a year.  No, we are not allowed to collect unemployment benefits due to some “Agreement” with the state. 

Our group is not happy campers right now.  And to top it off, our school district closed a school and decided to send all the kids to one school (Guess which school that is? Yep, my school) and ship out my kids.  So, I basically start all over, not knowing the various likes and dislikes of the students.  Lord, give me strength.  Schools may be within a few miles of each other but their tastes can be very different.

What did I learn from the previous school year?  It didn’t work for me.  What will I do this year?  Go with the flow!  Stop fighting it.  Mother Theresa said “Don’t invite me to a rally against war, invite me to a peace rally, and I’ll be there.” (Or something like that) I’m not fighting the tide this year, working my 7 ½ hours a day, going home, and not thinking about it again til the next morning.  I won’t put in extra time mind you since I feel the school district showed us no appreciation with our agreement,  but I am going to try and “Go with the flow.”  "Ride the waves."  No fighting against the tide, it’s too exhausting.

So good riddance, 2012-2013- hello 2013-2014!

"The Lunch Lady's Very Bad Day" Speech

Finally, on video and ready for your viewing is my award winning speech, "The Lunch Lady's Very Bad Day" speech.  
Anecdote of the Week
Ode to the Lunch Lady - Submitted Jane Broberg

We toil and sweat in the middle school kitchen.
With laughter, tears, and even some bitchin...
Is it the generous pay you ask?
Why heavens no, please pass the flask.

We ove our jobs for many a reason.
But #1 is the summertime season!
The smells, the clatter and constant chatter
And the children's smiles are what really matter.

Ovens wafting with the smell of homemade bread,
Or do you prefer the aroma of chocolate chip cookies instead?
Chicken nuggets, spaghetti and sloppy Joes,
To find out kitchen, just follow your nose.

The government would like to spoil our fun,
Their ever changing rules have us under the gun.
What temp did you say the pizza should be?
What size scoop goes in the peas?

Bruises, cuts and too many burns,
When it comes to these we all take turns,
Shredded fingernails and aching feet,
Without these, our day wouldn't be complete.
We feel we have the best job there could ever be,
Because we work with such wonderful ladies you see!

Submitted to me by someone who wished to be anonymous.


Lunch Lady Poem

We love the hairnets, the aprons and smiles.

The meals that you cook keep us going for miles.

Buts it's not just the meals; it's your kindness and care.

We think you are wonderful and love the meals you prepare.

Submitted by: Room M101

Do you think the new Child Nutrition Regulations are working?
No, but notify parents..0%
No, this is stealing.0%
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