Is a “Green” Cafeteria on the Horizon at SHS?

Broken equipment presents added challenges to the cafeteria staff


Mia Snow and Bridget Lumnah

As high school cafeterias all across the country continue to go “green,” we can’t help but wonder if Scituate High School’s cafeteria will follow suit. This would involve a complete restructuring of our cafeteria to implement environmentally friendly practices, such as eliminating single-use plastics. On a surface level, these changes seem relatively feasible. But the school can’t begin to make a decision facing this issue without coming face-to-face with the current state of our cafeteria.
After Cathy Epervary, the recently retired manager of the SHS cafeteria, gave us a look at the inner-workings of the kitchen, we came to understand why our school has issues with going “green”– the biggest factor being the kitchen’s dishwasher. Unfortunately, there isn’t a functional dishwasher at SHS. In fact, the current dishwasher is more than 50 years old and is considered a “relic” in the dishwasher industry. For years, the workers in our cafeteria, along with participating students in the iExcel program, have had to put in extra effort every day to individually handwash each of their kitchen utensils. The discussion of our cafeteria going “green” hasn’t even been possible due to this practice, because there simply isn’t enough time in the day to handwash reusable plates and utensils along with the kitchen utensils they already have to wash.
The problems don’t stop at a broken dishwasher: the kitchen is filled with inoperative ovens, leaving cafeteria workers to use one oven in working condition that’s more than 55 years old. “They don’t even make them like this anymore,” claims Epervary.
On top of this, construction around the high school in recent years has further interfered with updating the cafeteria. The building of the school’s Performing Arts Center cut away a portion of their working space, forcing the dry food pantry to be moved to an old custodian closet. The temperature must be manually regulated through a thermometer by constantly opening and closing the doors to keep up with codes. While cafeteria workers are forced to take time to control their pantry’s temperature, they can’t help but be frustrated by the brand new, unused, consumer science labs with state of the art appliances at Lester J. Gates Middle School: “There’s three perfectly operational labs that have equipment in it that I can utilize, and I’m stuck making 350 meals every day on equipment that breaks,” Epervary adds.
After witnessing the state of our cafeteria’s kitchen, we were left with one question–what is being done to fix it? After attempting to reach out to Paul Donlan, the SPS Business and Financial Manager, we didn’t receive a response about the funds being allocated to our cafeteria. Luckily, David Stevens, Food Service Director for Scituate Public Schools, responded to us and answered our question. Stevens is hopeful about initiating change in the SHS cafeteria environment. With this being his second year working for Scituate Public Schools, Stevens has already begun planning real changes in our cafeteria and is on track to take serious steps. Over either February or April break of this year, Stevens is hoping to implement a working dishwasher for the high school. Nevertheless, Stevens rightfully claims that serious change isn’t something that can “happen overnight.” There are other areas of our cafeteria’s kitchen that are in need of repairs, such as a new dry food pantry and a new set of ovens, so Stevens also needs to consider his plans to eventually allocate funding to these areas.
That being said, there is no reason to feel pessimistic about the future of our cafeteria. Turning to a cafeteria based on more sustainable products is very important to Stevens, and “providing better quality products to kids” is a goal that he hopes to ultimately accomplish. So, we expect that in the upcoming years, our cafeteria will definitely be on it’s way to going “green.”