If you have ever wondered what happens behind the scenes in the cafeteria, Karen Libka has the answer. The Indiana Department Of Education (IDOE) does a deep inspection every three years to ensure schools are following nutrition guidelines. Salem Community Schools recently underwent the inspection at all three school cafeterias. These guidelines include menus having the correct amount and categories of food, every student receiving a fruit or a vegetable, and even the posting of civil rights in the room.
Libka, the food service director of 22 years, said that during the recent inspection, “they found that in all the things they looked at, we were correct in every single thing we did.” This is a sigh of relief for Libka and the other staff, to know that their work is flawless.
“Before I worked at the school, I worked for the Department of Defense with the Airforce as a civilian contractor, and I thought the military had a lot of rules until I started working with the USDA,” Libka said. The 40 staff members within the schools work exceptionally hard to follow these rules and keep kids fed. A common phrase among them being “we don’t work in school food for fame or fortune.”
Libka spoke about the difficult aspect of school food and said, “It can be heartbreaking when you see no appreciation, knowing someone worked hard to make that meal.” Not only is lack of appreciation hurtful, but also a lack of kindness. She said “But sometimes, the kid that is the most ugly to you, is the one that needs your kindness the most.”
Although it can be difficult, Libka said, “We don’t let it get us down, at the end of the day we are here to be a part of the solution and keep kids fed.”
Libka also expressed the joys of school food. “What brings us the most happiness is knowing that we are helping those kids that depend on us”.
Although BSE currently has free meals, Libka made a presentation at Monday night’s school board meeting asking for permission to provide free breakfast for the high school and middle school as well. This would be for at least the remainder of the school year. She said, “There is enough extra money in our account to help the families who need it.”
The cafeteria staff, proud of their achievement, continue to work toward new goals, and serve students with delicious meals and a smile.