COVID’s Impact on City High Food Service Staff

At City High, lunch and breakfast services have looked different due to short-staffing and COVID-19. This impacts students and faculty.


Lulu Roarick and Kaitlyn Brown

Every morning around 8:15 a.m., students start to crowd around the kitchen doors in the cafeteria. Waiting for a free breakfast, students circle in groups, anticipating the opening of the door to get their breakfast sandwich or bottled smoothie. 

Though formally scheduled to open at 8:15, breakfast will most likely not open until 8:30. Short staffing of Nutrition Services in both full-time and part-time positions has led to delayed service, creating increased pressure on cafeteria staff to deliver high-quality meals in a reasonable amount of time. 

Stephanie Lane serves food for the student body at the pizza cart, an alternative to traditional school lunch

“The differences have been significant with COVID,” Allison Demory, Director of Nutrition Services in the district, said. “We currently have 13 full-time openings and 8 part-time. In my ten years as director [before COVID], I’ve never had more than five or so full-time openings at any one time.” 

Lunch staff at City High outsource to all Eastside elementary schools as well, with some food service staff leaving part way through the day to fill in gaps at elementary schools when lunch is being served.

Kate Gluba, a food service staff member at City High and Longfellow both, has spent lots of time traveling between schools. She shares the effects short-staffing has on the amount of staff who need to travel.

“I go back and forth between City and Longfellow. In 20 minutes, I’ll leave to go to Longfellow. I’ll do their lunch because I’m the lead over there, then I’ll come back over here,” Gluba said.
Sticking with the job is important to our food service staff, as they see the value lunch and breakfast brings to students and faculty alike. 

“[The biggest impact is] when you make a connection with a student and you know you have made a difference in their life,” Erin Randall, City High’s kitchen manager, said.

This year has brought unique COVID-related challenges, as City High faces the highest percentage of short staffing in the last ten years. Due to short staffing, the sandwich cart has not been able to reopen after COVID. 

“When you have [staff members] that have to be gone for various reasons and sickness some days, it can make it a challenge to get everything done,” Randall said. “The only line we do not have open right now is our sub shop. Since we already have daily pre-made sandwich choices, it is not a line we have opened yet because of staffing.”

The new edition of City High has helped distribute the rush some, with students being able to line up outside of the assembly area. 

“I think that our move into the new cafeteria has been very positive for City High,” John Bacon, principal of City High, said. “The new space is lovely. It’s vastly superior to the old cafeteria which was much more institutional in feel.” 

Acknowledging all the hardships, ICCSD Food Services stays motivated to stick to its full-time mission.

Kate Gluba, a food service staff member, handles payment and serving of additional drinks and snacks during school Breakfast. She will later head to Longfellow to help serve Lunch.

“We provide breakfast and lunch to all students so no student goes hungry, and we know that some students rely on these meals as they are food insecure at home,” Demory said. “Our mission is to nourish minds and we know that students are best able to learn when they aren’t hungry.”