Top 10 things I’ve learned While being a Lunch Lady

1. Dawn dishing washing liquid can clean anything

2. It’s easier to get up before 5am than after

3. When in doubt always make extra

4. Don’t be afraid to use kids for physical labor

5. Always carry change on you to buy the occasional kid’s lunch

6. When they make you mad just send them to the end of the line

7. At the end of the day everything always gets done

8. Motto: “you ain’t disrespectin me cause I wear a hairnet”

9. Always clip done your hairnet

10. Condiments aren’t a battle to be chosen

national school lunch week 2012 — thursday

wrap it up

the photo does not do this lunch justice.  so far its been my favorite from celebrating national school lunch week.  today’s hot line option was buffalo chicken nuggets.  so i took those spicy nuggets and put them into a wrap sandwich, a little lettuce, tomato, plenty of pickles, american cheese and a dash or two of ranch dressing, all wrapped up in a giant tortilla shell.  i will admit it was yummy and got me thinking this lunches haven’t been that bad. a little lacking in seasoning and flavor but by far not the worst thing i’ve ever eaten.  and i’ll admit i’m a total sucker for those industrial mashed taters.  give me those instant tater flakes!!!

taters in a can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

national school lunch week 2012 — tuesday

the queso dog

tuesday in the middle school cafeteria is known as “tortilla tuesday”  aka nacho day.  nacho day is our most successful day for the hot lunch line.  normally i bake 40-45 pizzas a day, on nacho day i bake a total of 15.  nachos however were not sounding as tempting as they could be so for today’s national school lunch week lunch i created what i am going to call a “queso dog.”  i took a hot dog which we were offering on the grill line and topped it with some of the nacho cheese, jalapeno, and chopped tomatoes.  the funny thing about the hot dogs, is that starting at the middle school level they get a foot long hot dog but they don’t allow us to order foot long hot dog buns. no matter which lunch lady wraps up the hot dogs they always comment on this.  i think it is because we take pride in our product and having your hotdog hang out of its bun an inch on both sides just isn’t how these ladies would proudly serve their dogs.

 

national school lunch week 2012 — monday

its national school lunch week!  what does that mean?  well when i asked my fellow lunch ladies they had no idea.  we all fantasized about having the week off or perhaps even getting our lunch catered.  however when i looked up national school lunch week, i discovered that the school nutrition association sets a week aside to celebrate new programs, recipes, accomplishments and what makes your school lunch unique.

i have decided to celebrate national school lunch week by eating lunch at work everyday.  yes this lunch lady won’t be bringing her lunch this week she’s eating off the hot lunch line.  school lunch programs have a bad rap.  most the time everyone is horribly applaud by what we serve our kids and i’ll admit i’m sometimes applaud too but it’s also not the school lunch programs fault.  when the government doesn’t invest in better quality ingredients there is only so much you can do to create 600 lunches with a budget of $3.00 per lunch.

each day this week i’m going to try and create a yummy lunch with all items that are available to students and staff who get the hot lunch.  all items you see on my plate can be recreated by the average student.

so what was for lunch today?……………..cheese pizza with a side salad

dorito wednesday

“is today free chip day?!”

—–“the chips aren’t free but if you want them for your veggie then you can have them”

“YES! its free chip day!!!”

at the middle school level one wednesday a month is “dorito wednesday” or as the kids call it “FREE CHIP DAY.”  the technicalities of this are that doritos are made of corn thus they can be considered a vegetable choice.  at the high school level free chip day exists every monday.  now granted we are only allowed to sell reduced fat and baked potato chips and these chips are offered everyday for purchase.

the first dorito wednesday that happened we kind of forgot about it at the last minute.  the extra rack we fill full of bags of doritos hadn’t been put together so we just kind of pretended it wasn’t happening.  the only kids who asked about it were special ed and frankly i like those kids any ways so i let them get their bags of chips. mr ingalsbe, the 8th grade algebra teacher was also wise that it was free chip day.  the only lunch mr ingalsbe purchases is a coney dog. coney dog day always exists on free chip.  i let him have chips because i’m always trying to win ingalsbe over.  he has yet to eat a single breakfast we’ve made for him.

another experiment with the doritos happened this week, by pure accident.  we just forgot to put out the normal snack rack that has all the chips on it.  it wasn’t until the 7th grade lunch that i realized it wasn’t there.  out of almost 300 kids no one had asked about it.  since the hadn’t asked i decided to see how long it would take them to notice. only one 8th grade boy wanted to know where the chips were.  i think this means…..out of sight out of mind.  they only buy the snacks because they are offered, don’t offer them they don’t care.

the part that makes us all dread dorito wednesday now is the new federal guidelines.  in an effort to get kids to eat more fruits and veggies the new guidelines say that a meal does not have to include an entree (main dish).  a meal can be a combination of side items, 2 fruits and a milk, 2 veggies and a fruit, etc, etc.  we have yet to really promote this option.  can you guess why?  oh you want 2 bags of dortios and a slice of pizza ok that’s a meal.  you want 2 bags of doritos and an apple ok good to go.  all we would be serving is doritos.  i like what michelle obama is trying to do with revamping the guidelines for school meals, but until the government tells lobbyists that doritos aren’t vegetables even if they have corn in them or that tater tots aren’t a vegetable because they are made of potatos, the healthy options for kids at school have not changed at all.

ya know why i love my job…….

because teachers have students but lunch ladies have kids.  and i have two very special types of kids that i’m responsible for this year.  last year and this year i’m responsible for the allergy kids, aka the kids who are allergic to anything and everything eatable.  in the morning i make up special little breakfasts for them that are put in sacks with their names.  at lunch they go through my line so i can make sure they haven’t picked anything that might have something they are allergic to.

the second group i look after are a couple of kids that are red flagged because they are homeless. i have to make sure they come through the line everyday and that they do get food, no matter what.  these two really put things in perspective for me.  it made me think about what i used to do, working for hallmark, where i’d have to track down information like “when was the first barbie keepsake ornament?!”  or file away the Hall Family’s personal christmas cards every year. my kids have made that all seem very meaningless. i wake up at 4:30am because i love the special ed students that come through my line and tell me to have a good day or so i can go make chit-chat with the “at-risk” 8th grade girls homeroom, which has now gotten them all eating their breakfast i deliver to them.   i might work 20 times harder for a lot less money but knowing that at the end of the day my kids got feed maybe they only meals they’ll get all day, or they got peanut free food and had their orange juice instead of milk is much more satisfying and makes me glad to go to work every day.

cafeteria style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“did you see the menu for the first day! biscuits and gravy for breakfast and mac and cheese for lunch! Ya know how many pans that’s going to take!!?”

the first day of school was on wednesday, meaning i’m back at work.  lunch ladies enter the kitchens one week before the first day of school.  we have to clean the kitchen, track down all supplies that got moved around during summer school, order groceries, and my kitchen has a new manager which means each lady gives her the low-down on the dynamics of the kitchen.

in true public school fashion access to paper work and computers was not available till the afternoon before the first morning.  for our kitchen that meant chaos because we had no paper work on the infamous “breakfast in the classroom” that we were going to have to prepare first thing in the morning.  no student count, no class list, no updated teacher homeroom list.  600 servings of biscuits and gravy would be ready with nowhere to go.  i decided the best mind-set to be in was that the first day was going to be an all out disaster and if that didn’t happen then well it would be a good day.

breakfast wasn’t an all out disaster but it was pretty chaotic. and then came lunch……….263 6th graders this year who all looked terrified and thought that the cafe was an all you can eat buffet.  at the end of the line i had a stack of confiscated pizza next to my register.  7th and 8th graders are required to eat in silence till they can prove that they are the young adults they think they are.  the silence is actually a little spooky.  yet at the same time oh so lovely!

the new kitchen manager has only had one emotional breakdown so far…..”i’ve been in kitchens 11 years and i’ve never been so stressed out…..its all that breakfast in the classroom mess”  i told her it be all ok. i cried the first week i did breakfast in the classroom feeling the exact same way. she said she wasn’t quitting just yet.