Wayzata Students Help Fill Cafeteria Staffing Void
On any given day, roughly 2,800 students make their way to the Wayzata High School cafeteria for lunch.
“So you can imagine, when they get here, they’re hungry, they’re standing in line, they want their food,” said Deborah Hough, the Wayzata Cafés site coordinator.
But before we get to the point of when the students line up for food, there’s a team of unsung heroes who put in the hard work of getting all the food and beverages prepped in the hours before lunchtime hits.
“It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping out,” said Angel Gathumbi, a senior at Wayzata High School in Plymouth. “The lunch ladies do so much for us.”
Gathumbi is one of 15 students who signed on to help fill a glaring need when the cafeteria was hit hard by staffing shortages earlier in the year.
“No one was applying at the time, so we were extremely short,” said Heather Van Krevelen, the Wayzata Cafés deli supervisor. “So we couldn’t even make all the stuff that we wanted to make, just because we didn’t have the staff for it.”
Gauging student interest
For a while, school staff members helped to fill those gaps, but then they decided to see if students had any interest.
“Originally I was a little concerned that students wouldn’t want to serve their peers, or be in that type of role,” said Tyler Shepard, Wayzata’s associate principal. “But it picked up in popularity, I think, cause they’re paid a decent wage and they’re earning credit at the same time.”
Officially, the 15 student cafeteria employees are part of a work experience class. They earn a credit that gets them closer to graduation, while also earning nearly $17 an hour.
“It was a great way to make extra money,” Gathumbi said. “I would already be at school and I didn’t have a second block, and I knew that they were super short staffed, especially with COVID.”
For some of the students, there was a bit of a learning curve because they didn’t have prior work experience. But the seasoned staff still appreciated the help.
“I think it’s also freshened up the attitude of some of our existing employees because they have to put themselves in their shoes, so it’s been fun,” said Hough.
A fun experience that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
“It’s a very big job, but that’s okay,” Hough said. “We’re here to feed the kids.”