Some of my regular readers might find it hilarious to learn that I was once a lunch lady–for over ten years. I’ve worked in every building in my school district. Yes, I was cleared by the state of Michigan to work with children. And yes, I accidentally let loose some awful swears within innocent earshot. Often. But the swears were never directed at the children, so I am not a terrible person.
I enjoyed the elementary students a great deal. Especially the kindergartners–their sweet eyes, and itty-bitty voices. Who doesn’t love a kindergartner? A soulless prick, that’s who. The high school students were mostly tossers. I started out in the high school. Thank fuck I was only there one year. Those bitches had an attitude that wouldn’t quit. I was only five years older than the seniors, so admittedly, my urge to throw shade at them was fucking disgusting.
My sweet spot was the middle school, grades 5-8. The poor middle school kids were the ones I could relate to most because I was once a poor kid in middle school. I didn’t have money to buy a la carte; I ate the standard school lunch–one serving of each component, no extras. People who have never been poor, who have never had to participate in the school meal assistance program don’t understand the separation one feels from their “rich”peers.
As a nutritional service employee–a lowly member of support staff–my daily time spent with students was just as important as their class time with teachers. Even more important in some ways. Lunch ladies, we know our kids’ living conditions. They open up to us. And we know they are hungry–that the best best meal they are going to get the whole day is provided by us. Sometimes we give needy kids extra servings of fruit and vegetables. Sometimes we pay for their entire lunch–kids that should qualify for free meals, but don’t because their families just miss the income cut-off. I can’t tell you how many dollars I’ve pulled out of my pocket to see a kid eat.
Of all the jobs I have have held, I miss working as a lunch lady most. I miss knowing I have made a difference in a life, even if it was just for one day.
I had the pleasure of working with some of the most loving people. People who don’t receive proper credit. These women care about the kids they see every day. These women are beautiful. And the kids they serve are fortunate to have such gorgeous hearts looking after them.