Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cafeteria Design

Cafeteria Design

I wrote this ages ago. This rant shows my age because it is moot. School lunches are now packaged at a central kitchen and served in sealed compartmentalized plastic trays. However, I am sure this method of feeding the masses has not changed school design.

California has a strange plan for designing schools. My brother-in-law, Carl, had the right idea years ago. The state should have ten school designs and the plans on file. No new architect for each building. But, that is not the case.

I won’t try your patience by discussing the fact that new schools no longer have covered walkways between wings because the covered walkways would count in the square footage of the school. Nor will I frustrate you with the fact that my last school had the kindergarten classes the furthest from the cafeteria, while the upper-grade kids were next to the cafeteria. I would like to discuss the design of the lunchroom.

When the new school was built the kids and teachers were from Madison Elementary; they just moved the whole population one day. The Madison cafeteria was built in the 50’s and was a clever design. The bins of food were on a table in front of the servers. The trays were on a track about two feet up from the bins. The whole apparatus was perpendicular to the line of students. The food was put on the tray, and the tray was slid toward the students waiting for food.

At the new school, the kids slid their tray past the servers. The bins of food were on the server side with a stainless steel ledge between the server and the tray slide. It was necessary for the student servers to kneel on stools, lean over the bin of food, stretching out their arm to put food on the tray as it was pushed along. There was many a slip, not to mention having servers leaning and breathing over the food.

The real bit of genius was the tray return slot. This was a stainless steel slot in the wall. The child, when done with lunch, was supposed to slide the tray in the door and someone on the other side, working the “dog house”, would grab the tray, scrape it into the huge stainless steel bowl with a garbage disposal in the middle. (As a sidebar, I can tell you it was hard to keep student workers from running to the cafeteria because no one wanted to work the dog house.)

Whoever designed the little door apparently did not know kids don’t eat much of the free lunch they receive and had never seen a primary child trying to carry a tray of half eaten food and then poke it in a slot in the wall. Tray after tray caught the lower lip of the slot and dumped the food down the wall. The first day, they were serving applesauce.

By the time I got to the cafeteria with my class, food was pooling in a semicircle, four feet across, around the dog house door. A custodian was trying to control the pool with a large squeegee on a pole. Our principal had already rolled out two plastic garbage cans and a cart to stack the trays.

Sad thing? Our new school was the third of three schools built on the basic plan. You have to admire the architect’s consistency.

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