Feeding the future: Behind the scenes of a cafeteria

By Tanisha Agrawal

Conestoga High School

The heart of a school, the cafeteria, holds so much in a day, an hour, and a moment. 

For students, lunchtime exists for only an hour. The prep may seem easy, but behind the scenes –– there is a lot more to be done. 

Conestoga High School, located in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District, houses more than 3,000 students, all of whom have lunch in one cafeteria within a two-hour time period. A small, close-knit group of cafeteria workers makes this possible. Coming from different countries and backgrounds, these men and women bring together their culinary mastery to put together a meal for each and every student.

On March 17th, 2023, a typical day at the Conestoga High School cafeteria, students purchase school lunch or bring their own meals from home.
Louise Gardner places ham on the burger buns for sandwiches.
Gurping Cheu, Yuping Gao, and Dora DiFrancisco (left to right) make burgers for lunch.
Gurping Cheu packs burgers. Cheu immigrated from China and converses with his co-workers in Mandarin.
Dora DiFrancisco, Gurping Cheu, Yuping Gao, and Marianne Reilly (left to right, clockwise), work together at a station to make and pack burgers. They pack over 1,500 burgers in a half hour. 
Karen Pepe figures out the weight of the lunch ingredients. 
Dora DiFrancisco places freshly packed burgers in a container prior to the lunch period.
Dora DiFrancisco places hashbrowns on the counter for breakfast. Under the Universal Free Breakfast Program, breakfast is free for students through the 2022-2023 academic year.
Louise Gardner checks out a student who purchases chips. The school follows an electronic system where parents put money in their children’s accounts.
Dora DiFrancisco prepares pizza dippers. These are sold only on Fridays and attract herds of students.

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