NYC school cafeteria workers deserve more recognition


U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr

The Editorial Board

In crowded kitchens with hot ovens, school cafeteria workers not only provide school lunches but grab-and-go meals at 435 different pickup points for remote learners and other New Yorkers suffering from food insecurity. It’s time for these thankless workers who feed over a million New York City school children to receive the recognition they deserve.

While the New York City Department of Education allowed other employees to work remotely, the kitchen staff were unable to be accommodated. These essential workers operate in poorly ventilated environments, risking their safety with temperatures regularly reaching triple digits.

During a visit to P.S. 001 Alfred E. Smith Elementary School, then New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked the school’s cafeteria workers.

“None of this would be possible without the hard work of the meal service workers on the front lines,” de Blasio said when discussing the city’s meal hubs during his visit to the school. “We cannot thank them enough for their service.”

To show appreciation for these incredibly important service workers, New York City schools need to begin celebrating a day of recognition for cafeteria staff. Some public schools have already taken the initiative, creating the School Lunch Hero Day celebrated on the first Friday of May, first recognized by the School Nutrition Association 10 years ago.

New York City Department of Education employees providing breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round deserve clean and safe working conditions, paid time off, cooling equipment and more.

While the labor union partners and elected officials work to create that reality, other school employees like teachers, custodians and administrators can work with students to ensure cafeteria workers feel valued by observing School Lunch Hero Day every year.