Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dining Hall Staff: Underappreciated and Overworked

Every morning at four A.M, while the rest of the SPS campus is fast asleep, the lights in the kitchen turn on; bacon is fried, pancakes are flipped, and potatoes are diced. A mere three hours later, an entire community passes through the kitchen: emptying bins of breakfast, draining gallons of coffee, and dirtying hundreds of dishes. A swarm of ASP faculty, students, and interns tear through the kitchen, often without stopping to thank the staff. It seems as if there’s no consideration or thought given how long the of their breakfast took to make, or even who prepared it.

Given their tireless efforts and continual dedication to serving us, the dining hall staff should be able to consistently rely on emotional compensation, but frequently, ASP community members fall flat on basic courtesy, specifically in saying “thank you.”

The food service team is composed of only a handful of employees, some of whom have worked as long as 26 years on campus. When asked about the time commitment to his job, Robert Hall commented “[The job] takes up our whole lives.” These workers’ job descriptions extend beyond the basic principle of preparing food (from scratch). Other responsibilities include catering various events on campus, coordinating food orders and deliveries, and planning the menu for hundreds of people. Larry Fischer, Assistant Direction of Food Services and a crucial leader in the dining hall, commented “A lot of kids don’t realize what everybody does here, and the time and effort we put in.”

I asked interns, faculty, and students to reflect on the role food plays in their experience at ASP. Most people answered my questions the same way; they commented that dining over delicious food is crucial to communal bonding. When student Andrew Lambert joked “it’s really nice not to have to do the work, make my food, or clean up after,” he revealed another side to the ASP dining experience. If these same community members had to prepare their own food, they wouldn’t have time for the transformative social opportunity the dining hall provides for them.

On Friday June 27th, I waited five extra minutes by the self-serve section of the dining hall. As students, faculty, and interns passed by, I counted how many times people said “thank you” or acknowledged the workers in any way. And although approximately 35 people waited patiently in line for food, only four said thank you. So why is it that ASP community members don’t take the time to say “thank you” when presented with hand-made meals?

A common misconception surfaced when student Caroline Anastasia stated “When I see them [dining hall workers], they always look so busy, I don’t want to interrupt them.” And although her defense could be seen as conscientious, food service worker Mr. Hall says that saying thank you “would never hurt.”

The dining hall staff informed me that although I believe they don’t receive the gratitude as they deserve, they’ve gradually gained more respect.  Mr. Hall said that many years ago “we [dining hall staff] had to get off the sidewalk for the kids and wait for them to pass by.” He then concluded that there’s been much progress since then. Since many of the dining hall team members have worked here for a commendable amount of time, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to assume that they’ve grown used to the way students treat them. But just because the relationship between ASP diners and workers has existed this way for so long doesn’t mean not saying “thank you” is okay.

I encourage you to consider how hard people work to feed you and how little they ask for in return, and thank the dining staff for what they do for the ASP community the next time they serve you.


  1. Mason, your article was really great! I believe your message was portrayed very clearly to the reader and I know personally I will definitely make a conscience decision to say thank you to the kitchen staff. Your use of quotes also made the article flow really well!

  2. Mason,
    This article was really incredible. The details that you included, such as the quote that spoke to how dining hall staff used to have to step off the sidewalk when a kid passed by, truly helped me to connect emotionally to what the dining hall staff must endure each day. Even sense you began this article, I have gone out of my way to say, "thank you," to those serving and making the food because of many of the details you brought to class while creating the article. By the way this is written and the intricate and critical detail you incorporated, I have no doubt that those who read this article will experience the same transformation that I did. Thank you, and great job!