Prior Lake High School kitchen staff bites off more than they can chew

Laker Cafe closed during lunch hours due to short staff

Cole Rook

Laker Cafe closed during lunch hours due to short staff

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools

Cole Rook, Contributor

The school bell rings. Like every lunch hour, kids sprint down to the food line and get in line as soon as possible. Unbeknownst to them, they will be waiting for much longer than anticipated.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the staff are rushing to serve up food. With an increasing number of kids and decreasing number of staff, lunch has gotten more difficult.

This school year has begun in a strange way. Lunch lines have been noticeably longer, and alternative food and drink options have disappeared from shelves.

The Prior Lake High School kitchen has recently lost a large majority of their kitchen staff. This has had a ripple effect through all food-related locations in PLHS and has greatly impacted the unseen workers in the kitchen.

They have had to take on a giant workload to compensate for the loss of workers.

“When we’re short staffed, I have to stay later and get here earlier,” said Bronwen Anderson, Child Nutrition Coordinator at Prior Lake High School. “Not only do I have to help my staff, but I have my own list of duties as well.”

Anderson and her staff have struggled with the lack of other employees. They are currently down to 9 kitchen employees, a stark comparison to 1 or 2 last year.

This has caused the staff to prioritize their focus on the main lunch, the bowl, and cold lunch, excluding a la carte and Laker Cafe options during lunch.

“It sucks to not be able to run the stuff you want to,” Anderson said. “My manager and I were actually teary eyed when we made the decision to close down a la carte and the Laker Cafe.”

The issue of closing down alternative options is not a matter of want but need. It troubles the staff that they can’t open the things they poured their heart and soul into.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative evidence, steps are being taken to recruit more staff.

For example, in the process to acquire more kitchen staff, Prior Lake High School has been promoting a positive work environment.

“It (the lunchroom) really is a great place to work,” said John Bezek, principal of Prior Lake High School. “The environment is very positive, and the benefits are a plus too.”

To promote this, PLHS has created entertaining videos with young students pretending to be lunch staff. It has gone over well with the majority of the Prior Lake-Savage communities.

However, the instant monetary benefits of joining the lunch staff are very lucrative as well.

“We are offering a 500-dollar incentive for current and new staff. I feel as though that’s a great deal for new hires,” Anderson said.

The money and the workplace benefits seem to be there, but what really helps the staff in the long run? Kindness.

“The students have been, for the most part, very kind and understanding of our situation,” Anderson said. “It helps us get through the shortages when students display kindness to us.”

In short, the best thing someone can do to help the kitchen staff is to be understanding of their circumstances. Learning to manage with nine fewer employees than usual is very taxing on the staff. 

They want your favorite option back as soon as possible too, so giving them time and showing kindness to them impacts them the most. This way, you will be able to zip through the lunch line and have all of your favorite options back on the shelves.