Untold stories of the cafeteria workers

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Photo courtesy of Christine Textor

The cafeteria workers pose in the kitchen in front of Pete the Pirate.

Zoey Pudenz, Co Editor-In-Chief

The people behind the counter, the register, and in the kitchen have always been the ones providing students with lunch during the school day. Now that students are not in-school five days a week, many of the school lunch regulars wonder what the cafeteria workers are doing with their time. 

“Over quarantine, I did puzzles, read, cleaned, and spent a lot of time outside,” said cook Christine Textor. “I could not believe this was all happening over the U.S. and it was very sad and depressing to go for a ride and the parking lot was empty with only a few cars on the road.”

For baker Rita Anderson, it was important for her to take as many precautions as possible throughout the pandemic.

“It was extremely important to stay out of harm’s way,” Anderson said. “My husband is taking chemotherapy shots which lower his immune system, so extra precautions were necessary. I didn’t return to the kitchen after spring break, I went to the grocery store at early hours, I stayed away from people who weren’t isolated as much as possible, and I did a lot of baking.”

According to Anderson, one of her and the kitchen staff’s favorite memories was getting to take a group photo when actor and alumni Eric Stonestreet came for a visit. 

“My favorite memory by far is taking a photo with Eric Stonestreet,” Anderson said. “He happened to be at the school on a Wednesday and remembered it was Chicken Patty Day, so he came in the kitchen for lunch.”

After 19 years, Anderson plans to retire and hopes to see kids back in the building soon.

“I sure hope we can keep the kids in school,” Anderson said. “They really need the academic atmosphere for learning. As for the next school year, I’m hanging up the old apron and planning to retire. It has been my pleasure to be part of this growing community for the last 19 years or so, and I only wish the best for years to come. It is bittersweet, to say the least.”

Though students are not in school, the kitchen staff is still working hard to distribute meals.

“My kitchen staff and I are still working, trying to provide free meals to as many remote learners as possible,” said manager Cathy Lamb. “We are preparing, packaging, and distributing breakfast and lunch daily to our students. I miss seeing, talking, and hearing the students interacting in the cafeteria. I am thankful that my staff and I can at least provide some sort of normality by getting meals to the students.”

Lamb is an alumna and has worked as the kitchen manager for three years. 

I miss seeing, talking, and hearing the students interacting in the cafeteria. I am thankful that my staff and I can at least provide some sort of normality by getting meals to the students.”

— Manager Cathy Lamb

“I am grateful for being part of the high school staff,” Lamb said. “My family and I attended school here, therefore, Piper has always felt like home. I am proud of all of the staff for their commitment to education, community service, and promoting as much normalcy during the pandemic as possible.”

One avid school lunch consumer is junior Makenzie Robinett. Her favorite meals include chicken nachos and chicken patties. 

“The cafeteria workers were always so nice when we would get our food even if the big crowd of hungry kids were being difficult to handle,” Robinett said. “They also were very generous with the selection of foods, snacks, and drinks that could cater to everyone.”

According to Robinett, she feels the cafeteria staff”s hard work tends to go unnoticed. 

“I wish the cafeteria workers were more appreciated because no one really talks about them,” Robinett said. “They have to prepare to serve us and all the work that goes into their job. I hope that we will get to eat lunch at school again because for that short period we didn’t have to worry about our classes. We could get a break to just talk with friends and still have fun during the day.”

According to Lamb, with hybrid students returning to school on Jan. 25, the staff is excited to see students again and for the little bit of normalcy, they will experience.

Untold stories of the cafeteria workers

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“I am hopeful for the safe return of our students to the school,” Lamb said. “I look forward to the social interaction we all have been missing.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people have lost family, friends, memories, and more. According to Anderson, she and the kitchen staff alike have missed seeing the students every week. 

“I really miss the kids,” Anderson said. “I miss some of my favorites and not being able to say goodbye to the seniors last school year. I miss getting to know the freshman. It’s so interesting to me to get to know those students because some let you in while others keep you at arm’s length. My goal is to make sure that their short time in the service area is pleasant and productive. Service with a smile is always my motto.”