Lunchroom Worker Shortage Impacts Anoka-Hennepin District
The Anoka-Hennepin School District says it started the year down 50 lunchroom workers in the Child Nutrition Department. It’s a staffing shortage that requires current lunch room staffers to put in longer days and be creative problem solvers.
Kim Wilson has been working in child nutrition for the Anoka-Hennepin School District for several years. She is one of many finding ways to keep up with the job.
“We all kind of just have to roll with the punches. Our days change. Every day could be something different and we might not what that difference may be,” says Wilson.
Staffing shortages hit the Child Nutrition Department hard at the start of the pandemic. Many staffers opted for early retirement. Now there aren’t enough new workers stepping in to fill the gap.
Noah Atlas, director of child nutrition for the district, said he’s hoping more people will be open to trying something new and helping out the schools, but he knows what he’s up against.
“We’re hearing on the street there are a lot of people who don’t want to work with the public anymore and we work directly with our guests,” said Atlas. “For our staff they work harder. And that’s more stress on them. And that’s really what we worry about most right now.”
More students are also eating at school which means Wilson and other child nutrition workers have to keep up with a higher demand. At Champlin Brooklyn Park Academy, workers serve up 500 meals at breakfast and lunch, which is 200 more students than what they served pre-pandemic. Across the district, workers serve 25,000 meals a day, which is an increase of 2,000 more students over previous years.
To meet demand, the district has extended lunch time, offered more grab-and-go options, and simplified the menu.
“Our people are working tremendously hard. They’re working every day to make sure that our guests don’t notice that what’s happening in our kitchens and with them doesn’t affect them when they come to eat,” said Atlas.
In the meantime, the Anoka-Hennepin School District is offering flexible work options and hoping people will help fill a great need to feed the children.
The district has permanent and substitute positions available. For a listing of all open positions you can review and apply here.