Not your typical lunch ladies

Published 6:34 am Thursday, April 22, 2010

The women serving up the ‘mac-n-cheese’ at Banfield elementary are nothing like the lunch ladies of common cartoon fame. Sheri Wilson and Sue Larson are not grumpy or scary like the oft-employed cafeteria caricatures. Rather, the friendly duo come to work early each day with smiles on their faces, ready to prepare meals for several hundred young growling stomachs.

Sometimes, they dish out a bit of etiquette instruction too.

“We try to teach them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ when we can,” head cook Wilson explained.

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It’s all in the day of a life of a school food service employee, she added.

Wilson heads to work each day by 7 a.m., where she starts her day off preparing breakfast single-handedly for about 150 students.

After breakfast is served, Larson arrives, and the two begin getting lunch ready.

By 1:30 p.m., with the help of a dishwasher, they have the kitchen cleaned up and are ready for dismissal.

Wednesday, they prepared pasta and garlic bread for 350 students and sandwiches for 90 more students.

“It’s not too difficult once you get used to it,” Wilson said. “The hardest part is just keeping it hot until the kids get here.”Then comes Wilson’s favorite part which is seeing the students each day.

“It’s fun, especially in the fall, to see how they’ve grown over the summer.”

Sometimes Wilson said she bumps into students during the summer, or outside of the school day, which she calls her celebrity moments.

“We sort of feel like movie stars,” she said. “The kids all say, ‘Hey! There’s the lunch ladies.”

On veteran’s day, Wilson said, students get to try out her role when they step behind the counter to serve breakfast to area vets.

“That’s a great day, and they really enjoy it,” she said.

Wilson, who has been in food service for 14 years, said the only tricky part of her job can be preparing some of the homemade meals — but she tries to ensure kids get plenty of their favorite lunches when putting menus together.

“The macaroni and cheese is homemade, and that’s a two-day process,” she said.

Another homemade meal, beef nachos, is also a favorite that takes some extra preparation.

“But I like my job and there’s a rhythm to it,” Wilson said. “After you’ve done it awhile, it’s a piece of cake.”