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From behind lunch line computer comes thoughts of encouragement

Wanting to spend more time at home with her two children, Cynthia Clauden left her career at J. P. Stevens and joined the cafeteria staff at South of Dan Elementary School.

Clauden would work there until they closed the doors, and she would later transfer to Cluster Springs Elementary.

After 28 years Clauden currently serves as assistant manager over the kitchen and runs the computer during lunches.

“I’m also head of bread and fruit,” said Clauden.

The schools have seen several changes in the last year or two regarding nutrition, according to Clauden. Federal guidelines mandated that schools serve more fruit and vegetables and grain and cut back on the bread.

If she could get away with it, she would serve more hot dogs, French fries and hamburgers.

“The kids just don’t get that a lot anymore,” said Clauden.

Clauden said the students’ favorite food still proves to be chicken nuggets, pizza and hot dogs, and they have never cared for sloppy joes or meat loaf.

“I like being on the computer and seeing the children come through and seeing what they’re going to say to me,” said Clauden.

She tries to leave the children with encouraging words as they come through her line, such as, “have a good day” “be good” and “don’t get in trouble.”

And when she’s having a bad day, a smile from one of the students helps her through.

The tenured cafeteria worker said that like any workplace, “We’ve had our ups and downs, that’s life. But through it all, we’ve made it. Your co-workers become your family. We have fun days, and I love everyone who works here,” she added.

However, if she could change anything, she would change the economy so that the employees of the school system could get a raise.

“Cafeteria workers should be acknowledged more. We are here for the children, and we are important,” said Clauden.

Even though most of her fellow co-workers from South of Dan have all gone on to retire, Clauden has no plans in the near future to join them.

Clauden resides in the Cluster Springs area with her husband, Ronnie. They have two sons, Bryant and Lamont, three grandchildren and one step grandchild.