Lunch ladies Debra Marolelli, Janice O'Brien and Jackie Harvey
Credit: Max May, 42Fifty

Every student sees these hard workers every day. They are here early to make sure everything is in order and ready for students. They stay later to clean after everyone and get everything prepared for the next day. These important staff members aren’t teachers or deans. These tireless workers are the Oswego High School lunch ladies.

These workers are here every school day, making sure every student who needs a meal gets what they need. Every lunch lady greets every student with a smile and a meal. Though every student has seen them almost every day, a majority of students do not know who these women really are. 

OHS has many lunch ladies working in the sandwich line, pizza line, salad bar, and at the cash registers. I was able to interview two of these women: Mrs. Debra Martorelli and Mrs. Jackie Harvey.

Mrs. Harvey has been working at OHS for 15 years, and has been working for Aramark (the company that provides the food in the cafeteria) for 19 years. She is the manager of the lunch ladies, and in order to be the manager, she had to receive a Safe Certification. There is no diploma required but extensive training is required. Experience wise, Previous work in a commercial kitchen could be required. Other lunch ladies are required to get certified at the start of every start of the school year to prove that they are qualified for the job.

Mrs. Harvey started as a lunch lady at Thompson Junior High School. She has to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. to get ready for school. She arrives at school at 6:30 a.m. and starts her job.

“You have to be a people person. Those are our customers,” Mrs. Harvey said. “We work with the students and staff every day. So you have to enjoy working with people.”

Having lunch is a crucial part of everyday life. Without lunch ladies, many students and staff would starve until the end of the day. The lunch ladies quite enjoy their jobs and enjoy the students.

“My true drive in it is I enjoy working with the students. OHS—this is the truth—has great students here,” Mrs. Harvey said. “I’ve been here a long time, and I would say after all my years, I’ve only had a conflict with one student.”

The majority of the lunch ladies show extreme gratitude toward the students for their manners and polite behavior. They all agree that it’s like being a mother to the students. 

“We become attached! We adore the students! It’s so bittersweet watching them graduate,” Mrs. Martorelli said.

Lunch ladies make a larger impact on the school’s environment than most students understand. Students would not have decent and filling meals without the lunch ladies, and teachers would have hungry students who are unable to focus. Lunch ladies have a very large and impactful job in the community. The lunch ladies are just like every other staff member trying to make an impact on the school community. They do more than just try to serve food to the staff and students they serve joy and appreciation.

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