Cafeterias serving up changes

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 14, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

EDGARD – Back in the day of limited choices, students had to either bring their lunch to school or take their chances on the one entree served in the cafeteria.

There were no salad bars, meal choices or special occasion snacks. And you had to pay cash on the spot, or you didn’t eat.

Things have definitely changed.

The school cafeterias today are student friendly. They offer multi-food selections, reasonable prices, and cafeteria personnel that understand if you forget your lunch money.

At West St. John High School, students have the option of going through the hot lunch line, the salad line or the sandwich line.

“Kids have more options now, the menu caters to their lifestyle,” said Eria Taylor, cafeteria manager at the high school. “This makes them feel more independent because they are able to make their own choices.”

Although this does mean a variety of the food they can buy, the menu items must still be prepared according to the nutritional guidelines set by the state. Taylor receives her menu selections monthly from Terry Charles, director of child nutrition for the St. John Schools.

Students at the high school are offered breakfast, with hot and cold items included, as well as lunch.

“We serve about 150 students for breakfast, and about 250 for lunch,” said Taylor. “They really like our food.”

One part-time and two full-time employees are supervised by Taylor, as the team prepares the food items each day.

The type of meals available is not the only change seen in cafeterias over the years.

A computer is stationed at the front of the high school’s lunch line to check each student’s status.

Taylor keys in their lunch ID number and receives information such as free/reduced-price lunch participants, balances owed if a student has charged their lunch, etc.

Another change is the designation for the food service employees. It is now proper to call them, ‘Lunch Room Technicians.’

Cafeteria employee Audrey Bethancourt has been with the St. John school system for 24 years, working in food service at West St. John Elementary School and Second Ward High School before coming to her current position at West St. John High School.

“I remember when we made pizza long ago, I am glad they changed that,” she laughed. “We had to roll and stretch our own dough. That was some long dough.”

Today, pizza is offered at the high school only on occasion, and is ordered in from a local pizzeria. As with all the food that students eat at the school, this pizza must also stay within the nutritional guidelines, which means it must be made with low-fat cheese, for example.

Just like a favorite restaurant, the cafeteria has a special dish that almost everyone likes and requests. In the case at West St. John High School, it is the lasagna. “They just love it. We have it once a week,” said Taylor.

Although there will always be new technology and changing trends, Taylor feels her cafeteria has everything they need to provide for all the students.

“We try to keep everyone satisfied, at the same time that we are serving the right nutritional choices,” she added.