Cafeteria manager fosters relationships with students, coworkers


Kathryn Haynes

Students laugh and chat with cafeteria staff during C lunch.

The bell rings. Students rush from their classrooms to the cafeteria. It’s lunchtime. They go through the line, pick up a tray and look at their meal choices for the day. But who prepares the food for these students?

Meet Donna Watson, who has now been the Cafeteria Nutrition Supervisor for 22 years. She works an eight-hour day and says cooking is one of her passions. As a school lunch manager, she works with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Central Nutritional Center (CNC) to decide menus.

“I love to cook because I like to see the way the children look, my family looks, when they eat my food,” Watson said.

Being a school food supervisor means joining Watson’s two favorite things together: working with kids and cooking.

“I decided that…since I like to cook and then I love dealing with kids…this would settle both of them,” Watson said.

Watson has a few favorite students-especially the hearing-impaired students-she enjoys seeing everyday. One student, Sydney Maxwell (10), loves seeing the cafeteria ladies at lunch.

“The women are really nice, and they always help me understand what the food options are,” Maxwell said. “They’re always happy.”

Camaraderie with the students during lunch is undeniable; the staff’s amiability shines not only in their interactions with students but also with their coworkers.

The cafeteria ladies have a special community in the kitchen; for their birthdays and Christmas, they give each other presents. Laughing and talking all day is one of Watson’s favorite parts of her job; she loves when everyone is in a good mood.

Watson is one of many workers who puts in hard work every day to provide lunch for students, even if they are not always recognized.

“We family, ” Watson said. “We try to stick together with each other.”