My official job is serving breakfast at a local elementary school. I always work 7:30 - 9:30am Monday - Friday. I'm also available to work lunch as a substitute at any school in the district - and I frequently do. I've subbed at four different buildings so far this year.
I'm writing today because I just wanted to share a few breakfast & lunch lady observations with you all.
- I'm still the same kitchen employee I was last year. One of the brightest moments of my regular job, and of subbing, is seeing kids I knew before, who nearly look surprised to see me again. Not much makes me happier than seeing a kid who may be a little lost or overwhelmed in a new building (like switching from an elementary school to one of our three middle schools). Seeing them is cool enough, but seeing a relieved smile and glow on their face when they see a familiar face? Priceless.
That being said - Don't worry too much, parents. ALL of the new middle schoolers are a bit overwhelmed. And all of us employees know this and are looking out for them. Trust me - it WILL get better within another month or so. It won't be the same as elementary school (or anything else they were used to last year), but they will get more comfortable and less stressed as it all becomes more familiar.
- The more things change.... I'm seeing the same kids already low on funds in their account. And it's a huge bummer. I remind them, and we send notes home, but it's the same kids each year, and I feel terrible for them. I wish that if there was ANY question about making ends meet and feeding a child, every parent would fill out the application for free/reduced meals. Just fill out the application. This is really just simple adulting.
The program is seriously there to help those who need it. Our kids on free/reduced meal plans get the same meals as the rest of the kids - I don't tell ANYONE whose meals are free/reduced. Right now, our district carries over last year's records for free/reduced meals, but starting October 1, I'll have kids slipping through the cracks because their paperwork wasn't filled out again for this year. So please, just do it.
- When you see the horror stories about lunch ladies being nasty or refusing kids food who don't have money on their account, please remember there are two sides to every story, and the press publishes stories for your reaction, not necessarily to help anyone.
I've subbed in several buildings and NEVER seen a child embarrassed or mistreated because of a lack of funds or any other reason. Do I remind children when their account needs money? Yes, I politely do. Do I send them to the back of the line, or take back their food? Never. The worst case scenario is if their account is several meals in the negative, they get a comp meal. Still a full meal, and in my case, a meal that is on offer to everyone in line. I don't like to do it, but I'm annoyed with the parents, not the kids, and I never take it out on the kid. Never.
- My last observation, and bit of advice, applies to buying breakfast/lunch, riding the bus, and all the other new experiences of school. Unfortunately, I realize it contradicts some teachers' advice. Oh well. Send your kid to do all the new experiences ASAP. Right now is when I'm looking out for confused kids to show them the system. For that matter, so are the older kids (who I sometimes jokingly call my 'old pros'). If your kid comes for a meal in November, we're not sure if they've been through the line before We're still always happy to help if asked, but right now is when we're really keeping an eye out to help the newbies. Send them, we're here and ready to help.