School Employees, Parents and Students Rally Behind New Recommendations for Real Food, Safer Schools
June 5, 2013 – Amidst uncertainty and doomsday scenarios shrouding the School District of Philadelphia, a new report released today entitled "Inside the Lunchroom: Workers‘ Vision For Real Food and Safe Schools," identifies necessary yet simple solutions for improving the quality of kids’ days away from home. Based on a survey of 434 School District Employees—cafeteria workers and student safety staff (also known as "noon-time aides")— the report highlights two areas of immediate concern to children and their parents in the SDP:
- Safety: In a recent report on ABC’s Nightline (aired on 5/30/2013), the principal of Strawberry Mansions High School, Linda Cliatt-Wyman described lunchtime as "the most scary part of the day for me," remarking on the fact that at lunch time all the students are gathered in one place. 40% of workers surveyed indicated that they had recently witnessed a violent incident where there were not enough student safety staff present to address the situation. Similarly, 35% pointed out that they witness violent incidents every year where there are not enough staff present. It could get much worse — the School District Budget proposed for FY2014 threatens to eliminate all student safety staff (also known as "noon-time aides"). School safety staff want to stay in the schools to protect students and receive additional training on how best to keep them safe in the uncertain fall term.
- Fresh Food: 64% of survey respondents reported that at least half the food we serve is being thrown away. But food workers don’t want to give up on getting kids to eat their veggies. Currently, lunch is prepared in one of two ways: in full-service kitchens, where workers cook and serve fresh food daily, and "satellite" kitchens, where pre-packaged, frozen meals are simply warmed up. 78% of our survey respondents believe that students enjoy fresh food much more than pre-plated food, so workers believe they should have the chance to cook, not just reheat, meals. Many kitchens using the frozen food model have served fresh food in the past.
The rally at 440 N. Broad will highlight these issues, and school safety and food workers will call for more input and better training in crucial decisions affecting the welfare of District students.
"Every day we are more than just safety staff," Migdalia Lopez, a student safety staff member at Bodine High School, says. "We have to act as counselors, nurses, and even social workers sometimes. We try to do our best because we care so much about the students."
"We play an important part in the education too," says Juanita Jones, Lead Food Service Worker at Olney Elementary. "We’re just one big team. The more training we get, the more educated we get in doing our jobs, and the more input that we’re allowed to put into our jobs can only make it better."