A Deeper Look Into the Lunchroom

One of our  lunch staff Brenda Varga on 
a lovely Friday morning.

Ayla Hurtienne

One of our lunch staff Brenda Varga on a lovely Friday morning.

Ayla Hurtienne, Hour 2

It’s the first day at a new school and you’re super nervous. The first half of the day goes by and it’s finally lunch, you get welcomed with the smell of the homemade pizza and warm smiles from the staff. Have you ever really wondered what really goes on inside the kitchen? Or have you ever questioned how our lunch is run by some of the most upbeat and amazing staff? What inspires them? I wanted to know more about how our lunch has changed and adapted.

One of the ways was how healthy options were required and changed the way we do lunch. I interviewed one of our lunch staff, Brenda Varga and she states, “ The DPI was our biggest change. Most of the favorite meals were no longer available so it was very difficult” we switched to all-new foods and the kids were upset. The DPI (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) implemented the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the DPI states it is for “nutritious meals and snacks served to children and adults enrolled in daycare and to children in afterschool programs and emergency shelters.” I also interviewed our SPASH Food Service Supervisor Brooke Ananiadis. Brooke communicates that there are so many fun things on the menu that Brooke creates. She also implements any suggestions while keeping the DPI in mind. Digging deeper into the heart of our school I asked two of our students, Fenris Rogne and Elm Laska. I asked these students how they felt about the required fruit and if students should be required to take a fruit they both said yes. I then asked if it would make them feel better if we had a spot to put fruit and veggies to donate to the food pantry instead of just throwing them away after we got our lunch. Again, two yeses. Curious to see how many people throw away fruit I decided to make a survey and found out the following: 60% of 28 students from my survey said that they throw away their fruit. This proves we are wasting fruit every day.

Something that astonishes me every time is how the lunch room works together perfectly to provide a swiftly moving system. In my interview with Brenda, the question arose, does the lunch room have checkups like a restaurant, “Yes, we have 2 a year 1 is a surprise and the other we know about. They are very strict with schools especially”. What makes the team dynamic work so well together? Brenda says, “We are a team and we work together to make sure we have all of the things we need for lunch, breakfast, and a la carte.”

We all know and love homemade treats from a la carte but who’s behind them and when did it start? Brooke and Brenda would say hummus started a little before covid in 2019 and the muffins have been homemade since last year by our baker Cheryl. Cookies have been a staple but ingredients change due to DPI. Then, I asked Brooke what makes a la carte so special, she said “ there is a variety for kids, we stay compliant with healthy choices, and kids are hungry and we would rather them come here than have to leave” Brenda had something to say about a la carte as well, “It really is something for everyone and its open 7-3:30 every day except during advisory on Wednesday”. A la carte being open all day at school gives students an opportunity to eat healthy foods and hold themselves over if they missed breakfast or are just hungry. Brooke says our breakfast staff member comes in, makes breakfast, and stays till lunch. Another staff comes in at 6:30 am to start right away on homemade soup and at 8 am they start to rise the dough for the pizza. 10-11 people work in the lunchroom till 1 pm then another staff comes in and cooks till the bell. One thing Brenda finds difficult is when students are inputting their PINs instead of using their cards. Brenda says it severely backs up the line and makes the process a lot slower. A struggle Brooke finds is, a lot of kids do not know how many options there are and how to work the lunch lines.

The Background behind our staff. What makes them, them? Brenda worked at Plover Whiting and once her kids started getting older she wanted to continue to grow with them and the elementary school students weren’t good at communicating on a daily basis. She wanted to get more connections with older kids. She started working at SPASH in 2007. The change that Brenda has implemented is she wanted to change the stigma of Lunch Ladies and bring sunshine to SPASH.

In all, we have amazing options with amazing staff. Our lunch is intricate and well thought out. Our staff works hard to provide a comfortable atmosphere and super delicious food. We have a healthy, organized, and cheerful lunch system.