Students work in the cafeteria

With the introduction of free brunch and lunch, student employees assist in food prep


Photo by Jannah Sheriff

Senior Vy Pham works in the cafeteria at the end of the lunch period.

Jannah Sheriff

When senior Vy Pham applied to be a Student Cafeteria Worker, she was reminded of her time as a lunch line helper in 5th grade, where she stocked food and prepared meals. So far, she finds that working in the cafeteria has provided her an opportunity to earn money while releasing the stress of the school day. 

Pham’s work schedule includes leaving class five minutes early before Brunch and Lunch to assist in meal preparation, which she says leads to less time with friends. However, she notes the convenience of having a part time job that “accommodat[es] the free time” she has at school rather than impacting her busy schedule after school. 

Pham remembers her first day of work as “hectic” due to the high number of students who opted to receive free lunch. She explains that the number of students that take lunch each day is hard to predict, making preparing a sufficient number of meals difficult.  

Due to this, she has learned to work quickly and enjoy the “fun, straightforward” tasks she receives. She recalls a specific instance where she was tasked with cutting strawberries and found the repetition of the simple task “therapeutic.” 

“It helps me clear my head,” Pham said. “Especially with Monta Vista, [and] this competitive environment, the cafeteria is my place to take a break from all that, refresh myself and reset for the next period.”

Senior Sargun Dhillon shares similar sentiments about the convenience of having a part time job during the school day. She was initially motivated to apply for the job because she enjoys cooking at home and wanted to experience working in a kitchen. 

A challenge Dhillon faces is that students often stall the line while considering their meal options or take food only to return it, which slows down the line and requires the staff to throw food away. She notes that working in the cafeteria has taught her to work quickly while learning to direct fellow students so they can receive meals faster. 

“Taking initiative is a skill I’ve learned,” Dhillon said. “I used to be a little soft spoken, and that’s changed because sometimes [my] job includes being like, ‘Hey, come on guys, get moving.’ I’m usually not the type of person to say that, but I’ve learned that it’s something you’ve got to do and it’s nothing personal.”

Junior Grishma Shukla was unsure what to expect when she applied for the position, but says she is glad she took the opportunity.   

“[Skills I have learned include] working together with the rest of my colleagues, being held accountable for being there on time and doing everything I’m supposed to, not idling away,” Shukla said. 

An aspect of the job that Shukla enjoys is getting to know the other student and adult employees in the cafeteria. Pham also finds that working in the cafeteria has given her a greater awareness of the behind the scenes work of meal preparation and built connections with the other employees in the cafeteria. 

“Before, I would just come and get lunch mindlessly, and I wouldn’t really know the employees in the cafeteria,” Pham said. “But now that I’m working with them, I got to know more about them. They’re also people with lives [and] that’s something you know but don’t really come to process or realize in your brain as you’re just going in to get lunch. You’re not really paying attention to the people who are there.”