LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy put on an apron and worked shoulder to shoulder with the kitchen personnel at Esteban Torres High School in East Los Angeles last week.
Cafeteria worker Maria Castillo trained Deasy, who worked the morning shift helping to feed hundreds of students. Deasy made the visit to highlight the work and role of cafeteria personnel and other staff in supporting student learning.
“I am happy the Superintendent joined the cafeteria crew today,” said Castillo, who has worked in LAUSD cafeterias for eight years. “It takes a lot of work but I enjoy my job because I know kids won’t go to class on an empty stomach. For many kids, I know that I may be serving them their only good meal of the day.”
Deasy stocked supplies and helped prepare food items, loaded Breakfast in the Classroom carts and served students throughout the morning, according to a school district press release.
“As a mother, I know how important it is to take care of all the needs of a child. They have to eat in order to be able to learn,” said Castillo whose son also happens to attend Torres High School. She said Deasy should remember laboring in the cafeteria when the school board considers future budget cuts, noting that Torres’ cafeteria staff has been reduced in recent years, leaving only eight food service workers to prepare and serve more than 2,500 meals per day during five different lunch schedules.
“It was a great morning,” Deasy said. “You have no idea what it takes to serve food at this scale. The teamwork is amazing. The thing that amazed me was how everyone in the cafeteria knew the students’ names and even encouraged them to eat. They know each other on a personal level. The students are deeply respectful of the cafeteria workers and the workers are very caring.”
SEIU Local 99, which represents nearly 45,000 employees in public and non-public organizations in early education, child care, K-12, and community college levels, helped coordinate the visit. The union includes Teacher’s Assistants, Playground Workers, Special Education Aides, Bus Drivers, Custodians, Cafeteria Workers and others.
“The work we do is necessary for a positive learning environment,” said Custodian Edna Logan, in a written statement.