Annapolis Valley cafeteria worker wants change in school’s food management | CBC News

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Annapolis Valley cafeteria worker wants change in school’s food management | CBC News

A cafeteria worker from the Annapolis Valley is worried kids aren’t getting proper nutrition from cafeteria lunches.

Jenny Osburn believes the provincial government could help.

“The fact that cafeteria workers are so poorly paid is a key factor in school food being generally awful,” said Osburn, who works at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Aylesford.

After a few years of being a parent volunteer, Osburn said she thought she could get more done as a paid employee in the school’s cafeteria. 

Although Osburn is only a month into her position as a cafeteria worker at the school, she comes to the job with 20 years of food service and management experience. She owned her own café in the valley for over a decade. 

Over the last three years, Osburn has been advocating for healthier food in school cafeterias, even helping launch a pay-what-you-can program at Berwick and District school.

Now, Osburn is trying to raise awareness about how cafeterias function in the valley.

‘It works like a mini restaurant within the school’

Osburn’s job is to order food, write menus, cook and set prices.

Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education pays the employees, but Osburn said costs are expected to be offset by sales.

She believes government assistance would allow more money to go toward food purchases.

Provincial government’s response

Although Osburn said lunch programs need improvement, there are efforts being made to bring more nutritious food to schools. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said the province has expanded the breakfast program to 94 per cent of Nova Scotia’s public schools, which is the highest percentage in the country according to provincial numbers.

The province notes that cafeteria workers are employed by provincial regional centres for education, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial or a private food-service providers.  

AVRCE following union contract

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education said terms and conditions of a CUPE collective agreement cover cafeteria workers employed by the centre.

The spokesperson adds that school cafeterias under AVRCE are expected to be self-sustaining and not-for-profit.

Osburn said is she concerned about how few hours cafeteria workers are scheduled and the fact that they lose out on pay when school is cancelled on storm days.

Osburn’s facebook post about missed work days for cafeteria employees. (facebook)

“There’s not enough pay time for people to make quality food,” said Osburn, who estimates she serves 70-100 people a day, including teachers.

She gets paid for four hours a day, but she said she’s putting in at least two hours of volunteer time to meet the demands of the job. 

“Either you have to expertly manage the food service on a regional level or we need government funding,” she said.

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