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Free meals program leaves Bay Area school districts scrambling for cafeteria workers

Many Bay Area school districts are scrambling to meet the demand for more student lunches.

The region is facing a shortage of school kitchen employees.

“It’s all hands on deck we make changes and adjustments, and we call people in from our central office to come out to the sites to help serve,” said Zetta Reicker, who serves as the director of child nutrition at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

The district currently has 19 openings for kitchen workers.

Reicker said the need for more workers spiked when the state started providing free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of income.

“The number of students eating lunch more than doubled with the implementation of the universal meals program,” Reicker said.

San Ramon Valley Unified School District hired 44 new food service workers, but it still was not enough.

Low wages and inadequate hours are the greatest contributors to openings going unfilled, according to the California School Nutrition Association.

The problem could get worse: California’s minimum wage for fast food workers will increase to $20 an hour and some fear that could lure even more workers away from schools.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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