School Cafeteria Workers Are Heroes, Now More Than Ever


During normal times, we owe so much to school cafeteria workers. Often, they are among the first staff members to arrive at school, showing up early to start preparing at least two meals that our hungry students will eat.

Day after day, they serve up cereal, grilled cheese, and pizza with a smile. They know more kids’ names than practically anyone at the school. And they keep our cafeterias a friendly and humming hub—the true heartbeat of our buildings.

But in these times, cafeteria workers are going above and beyond their normal duties

While most teachers and administrators are working from home, Zooming in their pajamas, school cafeteria workers are showing up to keep students and families fed. Often they have to report to new buildings or central kitchens, packing thousands of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every week.

School cafeteria workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis

Not only are they preparing meals, but they are also helping to distribute them, too—donning masks to work at grab-and-go stations and even boarding school buses to distribute meals directly to families.

By performing these essential services, our cafeteria workers are often putting their own health, and that of their families, at risk. But since childhood hunger is such a prevalent issue in so many of our communities, and schools are the safety net, they keep showing up. This is work that cannot stop.

We owe so much to school cafeteria workers

Our gratitude, yes. But also better working conditions, pay, and respect after the pandemic is over. School cafeteria workers make an average of $10.20 an hour. Surely that deserves to increase now that we’ve seen just how essential these services are to keep our schools—and society—running.

May 1 is School Lunch Hero Day

This national day of recognition began in 2013, and since then author Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the popular Lunch Lady book series, has gotten on board to help honor our cafeteria heroes. You can find lots of freebies and suggestions for celebrating on the School Lunch Hero Day website.

We urge you, however, to not only share your messages of thanks but also to advocate for cafeteria workers in your community and beyond. We can’t keep our schools going without their important work.

We’d love to hear how you are celebrating the school cafeteria workers in your area. Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

Plus, what post-pandemic school will really look like.





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