School Food: More Than Burgers and Fries
Fridays at school were always my favorite. Not just because it was almost the weekend, but because it was “steak finger day” in the cafeteria. Eagerly, I grabbed the hard plastic tray from the shelf and held it out to be filled by one of our Child Nutrition Services Employees. To start, crispy steak fingers were placed in the largest space, then a scoop of instant potatoes to the right, and don’t forget the gravy, then the meal was rounded out with a ladle full of green beans and a sliced orange. But the absolute BEST part of “Steak Finger Day,” was the “Hornet Roll,” the fluffy, buttery, homemade rolls that were a Friday staple. To this day, this meal is my comfort food.
Some people may have not been as impacted by school lunches as I was, but I do know that I was not alone in my gratefulness for these meals. You see, my family struggled to make ends meet, so we were able to qualify for free meals. These meals ensured that I had at least 2 hot meals per day. In addition to the food, the CNS Staff made sure that I (and all other students) were greeted with a smile and a kind word.
Although it’s been decades since I was receiving school meals, the system is the same. Our Leander ISD students KNOW, without a doubt, that they will be able to eat each and every day. This is a level of security that is necessary for many families. Sometimes the meals at school are the only hot meals a child receives, and without the dedication of our CNS Staff, this could be lost.
Child Nutrition Services Staff are up before sunrise to get to schools across Leander ISD in order to prepare meals for all of our students. They work tirelessly to ensure that all of our kids not only receive a healthy meal twice per day, but also a smile and a kind word. CNS Staff make a world of difference for our students, day in and day out. They showed up and fed thousands of our LISD Children throughout the pandemic, they adjusted on a dime to ensure that each and every student could safely receive a meal when school resumed. Without our CNS Staff, our district would fail to function.
For such a pivotal position, our Child Nutrition Services Staff are grossly underpaid. Starting pay is $11.58 per hour. At a forty-hour week, that brings the weekly rate to $463.20 before taxes, and $1,852.80 per month. This is BEFORE taxes! At this pay, our CNS Staff cannot afford to live anywhere near where they work. For perspective, the starting rate of a crew member at Whataburger is $14.00 per hour. Our CNS Staff helps to better the education experience for all of our students, yet they are not compensated commensurately. Our district will end up in crisis mode if we do not take care of our auxiliary staff, especially our amazing Child Nutrition Services Staff; they truly are part of the backbone of Leander Independent School District.