Additional Horror Stories From the Front Line

Everyone has one of those stories—the ones that make your eyes cross, your head shake in disbelief and your hair turn just a little grayer at the time, but make you laugh today. In School Nutrition’s October 2015 issue, “And You Think YOU Had a Bad Day?” offered a number of best “worst” personnel stories. If you need another chuckle or two, here are some that didn’t fit into our print edition—including a few that aren’t about troublesome employees but definitely fit the “only in school nutrition!” category!

It was two weeks before school and we were in desperate need of cafe helpers and subs. We didn't have a lot of employment applications coming in and I was getting nervous. One afternoon a very nice lady stopped in the foodservice office to see if we were hiring. I had her fill out an application and I interviewed her on the spot. She explained that she was a mom of a middle school student and was looking for part time work. When she left, she told my secretary and me to have a "blessed day" and I remember remarking how I wished all our job applicants were that pleasant!

I sent in her paperwork for processing right away, only to get a call three days later from our HR director saying we couldn't hire her because "she has a rap sheet as long as your arm." Apparently this delightful mom had a series of felonies! Needless to say, we found some better suited people to fill our position openings—although none were as "nice" as this lady!).

Many years ago, one of my managers discovered a couple having sex in the walk-in refrigerator. Can you say, “Brrrrr”? I’m lucky I didn’t have to witness it, but I did have to do the discipline. I think this happens more often than one realizes—no one is thinking clearly at the time, and there is always remorse.

Once I lost my temper and told off an elementary school principal—not one of my finer moments! One of my elementary cooks had to leave work abruptly right before lunch service due to a family emergency. Since it was right before lunch was to start I grabbed my high school manager and we got there just in time to serve the kids, doing what we could to get them through the line. The principal complained that the line was slow, the food looked bad and that we didn't set up the condiments and milk in the right place. I told her that the next time she needed a substitute cook, she'll have to work it herself. She said "I don't know how to cook or run a kitchen!” and I replied that in the future she needs to treat me and my staff with the same respect and kindness as she would show any of the parents of her students. She apologized and we never had a problem at that school again.

Once, in a conversation with an employee, I was advised that when I look at her face and think that she doesn’t care, I’m really just seeing “bitchy resting face syndrome.”

About 20 years ago, all child nutrition employees wore white pants as part of their uniform. I was asked to visit a site to have a talk with a woman who was very obviously wearing tiger-striped underwear—with a rather large hole in them. It was an interesting discussion.

Once, in Seward, Alaska, a school meal staffer discovered a black bear stuck inside the garbage dumpster at the loading dock behind the school. She tried to scoot it out with a broom, but found it necessary to call the city and cart the dumpster—with the trapped bear—out of town for relocation. The bear was not enrolled in the school, so it was not allowed to participate in the NSLP.

Many years ago, I had an employee who measured out baking soda instead of salt for the chili bean recipe. At the time, we used insulated containers with clips on the side to hold the lids down for transport of the dish to schools. About 10:30 a.m., after all the deliveries, the pots started to pop open, with the food oozing out. It was a disaster. We had to fix something else fast! We called all the schools so they could send the kids to recess first, while we prepared a replacement lunch. It wasn’t funny at the time, but definitely memorable!

Once I was on the register when the kindergarten classes came for lunch. It was very loud and I was having trouble hearing the children tell me their personal identification numbers. I asked one little girl—who rarely says a word—to repeat her number three times. Finally, she looked directly at me and said, “Mrs. Barbara, will you please put on your listening ears?!”

Alaska plane crashIn Alaska, most supplies are transported by plane. One time, the aircraft that was delivering school meal supplies had difficulties gaining altitude and crashed. There was no serious harm to the humans on board, but some of the supplies did not survive. 

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