Change is a progress. When it comes to Farm to School Initiatives that succeed, credit has to be given to the cafeteria staff who work hard in the kitchen to prepare wholesome, fresh food day in and day out. Most of them have been working in school kitchens for many years and have seen their meal program shifting towards processed, heat-and-serve food. But, when the Farm to School pilot program started at the Kohala Complex, it revolutionized the system in place. Chef Greg and his team trained the existing staff to work with a new system: from ordering, to cooking with fresh ingredients, to reducing waste by repurposing leftovers. Priscilla Galan, Cafeteria Manager at the Kohala Complex, has been leading the team that is part of the revolution taking place with school meals. Priscilla candidly talks about the change taking place at her kitchen.
Question: How did you become the cafeteria manager at the Kohala Complex?
Answer: I’ve been working at the Kohala Complex for 22 years. I was first a lunchroom supervisor, then a cleaner, a custodian, a kitchen helper, a van driver, a cook, and a baker. Eight years before becoming manager, they asked if anyone wanted to go to manager classes. I was the least senior person in the kitchen but I was encouraged to go to the classes because I had done so many of the jobs. When it was time to start in this position, I was given a crash course in about a week where I had to learn most of what I now do. I thought that I had (learned most), but when the end of the first month came and I filled out all of my reports, they were all wrong. After that, I made it my goal to be the best manager that I could possibly be. I still learn new things every day. I used to get really stressed out, but not anymore. I do the best I can and try to go with flow.
Question: What is the most challenging/frustrating thing about this new F2S (Farm to School) program?
Answer: Sometimes it’s too demanding. We gotta work on planning the menus so that we are not overbooked in a day. When I order things and they don’t come in, I get discouraged.
Question: How has your job changed since the beginning of the F2S program?
Answer: I stay (at work) later. I choose to come out of my office and help in the kitchen when and where it’s needed, so I end up doing my work later or on the weekends. We are still testing things and this is not going to be the bottom line forever. Balancing time at work is my challenge. Our cooks are willing to try and are proud of the food we are serving.
Question: How did you feel about the change at the beginning? And now?
Answer: When it started I hated it. I hated it. I cried. It was so overwhelming. I was always thinking, “How are we going to get all my team to change their entire work habit?”
Now, I feel like I know why my supervisors like this program. I don’t want to go back to the old way. We get so many compliments! The non-processed foods are so much better; it reminds me of when I was in school. I don’t know what happened from then until now. It’s like Chef Greg said, the vendors took over.
Question: What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
Answer: When I see everyone working together as a team; I call this being blessed! The compliments and when I hear that the kids like the food. Without them, we don’t have a job.
Question: How have the students reacted to the change?
Answer: I believe the majority is happier. I get a lot of compliments, more from parents than students. And we can see it in the surveys. It’s still a challenge to compete with the restaurant across the street, serving deep fried foods and fries – that’s what the kids want. But we’re trying.