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Behind the counter

The lunch staff provides food everyday to GlenOak, but it is more work than many would expect
Taylor Noe
Working Hard: Cook Cheri Amerine scoops a power bowl. “We don’t want you guys eating stuff from a bag anymore,” Cook Jessica Riff said.

Each day during 5th period, GlenOak students sprint to be first in the lunch line. While almost ripping the food straight out of the lunch ladies hands, they never take the time to thank them for what they do.

Behind the lunch counter is a staff who is very close, and just wants to provide for the students. In the back there are echoes of laughter heard all around, and a group who sounds more like a family than co-workers. 

Cook Jessica Riff has worked at the high school for six years, and Head Cook Lisa Barnes for four years. These are just a couple of the staff members, as the kitchen has around 10-15 workers behind the scenes. They receive around 1,000+ pounds of food a week to make sure the students are getting fed healthy food.

“Just for today’s order, 220 cases,” Riff said. “We get an order of similar size on Monday, plus the milk order is at least 60 crates.” 

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When the crates come in, the staff has to carry the food in mostly by themselves with some help from the custodians. This can cause some strain on the workers in the lunchroom, as it is much heavier labor then most would expect. 

“You get a lot of retired people that come in and they end up leaving within a year because it’s more physical than they think,” Riff said. “You find muscles you didn’t even know you had.”

More than the physicality of it, is the pain that can come with. The lunch ladies wash all of their own dishes, and don’t have a dishwasher, causing them to be leaning over for hours, on top of the heavy labor. 

“Most people think you’re just slinging food on a tray,” Riff said. “It’s a lot harder than that, when the girls go home their backs are killing them.” 

Most of the staff is at the high school from 7 a.m. until 1-1:30 p.m. 

“We’re always prepping for the next day,” Barnes said. “Always.”

Three to four days a week they get some help from a class in the school. The students come up around 7:30 a.m. and set up breakfast, then help with preparing lunch. They also do some of the dishes after lunch. 

This year, the staff has been focused on putting out better food options, making sure the high school students are not being fed out of prepackaged food. New things such as the popular power bowl, were made as an attempt to better provide to students. 

“We want to try to put out stuff that you’re used to like Chipotle or stuff like that,” Barnes said. 

The power bowl has a wide variety of options and changes everyday, meaning the students can make it how they want, and it’s not something already pre-made.

With the popularity of the power bowl, came longer lunch lines. The best way to avoid these lines, and help out the lunch ladies, is to not be one of the students who stands in the lunchroom talking. 

“It does not bother us per se, but it hinders you guys from getting in there,” Riff said. “Get in and go, talk out there while you’re eating.”

Other than the long lines, and the staff feeling overwhelmed from time to time, the people make the job worth it, and it’s an encouraging place to be.

“I come to work for the staff and the kids,” Barnes said.

The most important thing to the lunch ladies is to make sure the students have good healthy meals. While it can be a difficult job, this staff loves what they do, and have each other to get through it. 

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About the Contributor
Taylor Noe, Feature Editor
Taylor Noe (she/her) is a senior. This is her 3rd year on staff. She's also involved in Speech and Debate, Lacrosse, Marching, Jazz, Pep, & Concert Band. She's a member of the OSMA Student Board, the Student Ambassador Program, and the Athena Lacrosse Team. Lastly, she is a Key Club Officer. For fun she likes to watch TikTok and spend time with her friends. A fun fact about her is she owns 2 gerbils named Buckeye and Snickers.
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