The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

The student news site of Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif.

Whitney Update

Cafeteria staff members serve over 2,000 meals a day, here’s how

Riley Rust
During Lunch Oct.14, Mr. Victor Chapman hands a student a Boar’s Deli sandwich and an apple. To identify who and how many students are receiving meals, students must enter their student ID into a pin pad. Students must choose a fruit or veggie after selecting their meal. Photo by Riley Rust.

In the 2022-23 school year, California implemented a universal meals program, the first of its kind nationwide. The program provides two free meals a day for all students. There are students who can’t afford to pay for lunch everyday and there are many who don’t have time to make themselves a lunch in the morning. Knowing this, the cafeteria staff make sure every student who wants food is fed. 

“It requires eight people to do everything. To feed everybody. For our breakfast, our numbers are 600 [meals]. At lunch, we’re pushing 950 [meals] a day. So there’s a lot to do,” Lead cafeteria staff Ms. Shannon Sanderson said.

From 6 a.m. until 3p.m., the cafeteria staff are on their feet preparing breakfast and lunch

“I walk anywhere between eight and 10 miles a day in this kitchen. And I’m not the only one, they all do. Our part-timers who [work] four hours probably leave with 10,000 steps [or] 12,000 steps,” Sanderson said.

To move everything along in a timely manner and keep the staff on schedule to serve breakfast and lunch, teamwork is crucial. 

“I jump in wherever I can, so we all share pretty much the same roles. We just work wherever we’re stationed. That’s where we try to [quickly prepare] pizzas, burgers and stuff like that,” Mr. Joseph Navarette said.

Cafeteria staff members say the smiles on the students’ faces make it all worth it.

“We know a couple people. I’ve watched [some seniors] grow up. One of our friends’ daughter is a junior, so we get to watch her grow up. So when we have seniors that graduate, we kind of like to make them a little something special for their last year,” Mrs. Jessica Newton said. “I made graduation cupcakes and cookies for [the seniors last year]. It was just something special that I did for the kids to say goodbye. I just like doing it because, when [they] come in with [their] graduation cap, we get all teary.”

The cafeteria staff members aren’t just employees, they are people who are constantly trying to impact students. The staff said they have a huge heart for kids and a love for what they do. Their mission is to help in every way they possibly can. Due to several at home situations, it’s unpredictable whether a student may arrive at home with food on their plate.

“This is a part of who I am. I’ve always loved working with food. I love food. I love children. I have two adopted children. I was a foster mom for many years, so I had a huge heart for kids,” Sanderson said. “I try to not be the lunch lady and create relationships with my students.”

To make sure students are consuming foods that aid their growth, the staff must follow a state guideline. When gathered together as a team to discuss the menu, they have to follow the calorie count, fat and sodium levels that are regulated by the state. 

 “We started reaching out to other companies who are willing to work within our limitations, and the pizza was one of them. So that’s why now we have [personal sized] pizza on Mondays. On Fridays we also do the larger pizza,” Sanderson said.

Through all the prior calculations, food preparation and thousands of steps in the kitchen, the cafeteria staff have one goal: to feed, love and care for their school. 

Newton said, “Having interactions with a whole bunch of people – interactions with the kids and the admin, cooking and preparing – all the stuff like that [is] very fast paced, I love that.”


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