What goes into making lunch for students at a high school?

Behind the scenes at Kit Carson International Academy

Mirella Bennett, Kit Carson International Academy

The manager of the cafeteria at Kit Carson, Stefanie Gunnels, usually starts her shift at 6 a.m. in order to provide students with healthy food for the school day. When she gets to work she gets right to cooking, baking, packaging, or heating a breakfast for the students. 

Gunnels is in charge of kitchen management such as ordering the incoming food, inspecting said food, and overseeing kitchen staff. 

While many students often overlook the school lunches, a lot of work is put into the preparation and distribution of them by many hard working cooks, bakers and staff. 

“Every person who works here is responsible for every single thing in this kitchen”, says Gunnels, “They all have to know how to do it.” 

Everything students at Kit Carson eat at the cafeteria has to be measured out into proper serving sizes by the staff. Big boxes of foods such as fruit are brought to the cafeteria and it is up to the workers to put them into smaller bags in serving sizes for the students.

State law requires that students get a certain amount of food categories such as meat, starch, and fruit. Everything the students get are measured out in proper serving sizes by the staff. 

The workers in the cafeteria have to put in a lot of attention to make sure all the food is safe for consumption as well. In order to make sure everything meets the standards for food consumption, cafeteria workers must keep everything clean and ensure all food prepared is at the proper temperature. Gunnels and others must make sure all foods served are within date code and that the servings are proper sizes. 

At Kit Carson the cafeteria receives around 350 servings of food every day from Central Kitchen. Shipments of meals arrive daily and other foods such as fruits and vegetables arrive weekly. An inventory specialist works in the main office at Central Kitchen who receives Stefanie’s count of estimated meals. This count is then divided into two or three for the breakfast items and then the meals are told to Stephanie. 

Here, Gunnels will check what is on hand at Kit Carson and adjust the meal amounts. When the staff get the materials from Central Kitchen, they make it and send back information to the company. 

People in nutrition services come up with lunch menus for all the schools served by Central Kitchen. They often go to the school’s cafeteria staff and ask questions about what food they should send for the students. “We’re always absolutely willing to send messages and talk to you guys because we’re here to serve you guys, we want to make you guys happy,” says Gunnels.

 She continued to say that if students would like to try anything out or have any suggestions, the meal providers are always willing to listen and to feel free to contact her about it. 

While lunch ladies often have a bad reputation in the media, school personnel say there are many hardworking adults and cafeteria workers who put a lot of time and energy into making meals for students because  of their care for children.

Gunnels said,, “I’ve always loved children, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for them.”