Cafeteria workers find ways to provide food during pandemic

December 9, 2020 — by Howard Shu and Mina Yeap

When the school closed to in-person learning on March 13, cafeteria employees temporarily stopped working in the kitchen. Although the school is still in remote learning, they are now busy at work. 

All the cafeteria employees in the school district, including district food manager Pam Carlino and cafeteria assistants Barbara Herrera, Dotti Trifilo and Mari Escobedo, went on paid leave for the remainder of last school year.  

But this year, they are back to work at the Los Gatos High kitchen, providing food to some students in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) from both schools in the district every day. The program provides low-cost or free lunches for public and nonprofit private schools, and although the district took a waiver from the program, they still feed any students who qualify. 

Going on paid leave last spring was a relief for the cafeteria workers since they were all worried about getting laid off, Carlino said. 

“When the school district first closed, I have to admit I thought it was a mini vacation. Boy, did that get old fast,” Carlino said. “I really missed the students and preparing meals for them. I also missed all my cafeteria and student workers.”  

Though Carlino and the other cafeteria workers have been less busy this school year than usual, the year has not been a good one for them, she said.

“Some of what’s going on seems much more stressful because of not being busy and missing students and staff,” Carlino said. “We are all used to being extremely busy.”

As small cohorts of students have come back on campus this fall, Trifilo returned to the Saratoga High kitchen to provide food for them as well.

The cafeteria staff has also planned a new food program in which all food will be made from scratch. The district office first introduced the program at Los Gatos High last school year, and it was warmly accepted, as it provided better and healthier food.

“Look for great things to come as we return!” Carlino said.

 

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