Rhode Island School Cafeteria Manager Resigns Over Grease Trap Maintenance

Rhode Island School’s Cafeteria Manager Resigns Over Grease Trap Maintenance

In a candid letter announcing her resignation, the School’s Food Service Manager for a K-12 school in Rhode Island raised issues of sanitation, questionable food handling practices, a faulty grease trap and under-staffing in the school’s lunch program.

The letter did not give an effective date of her resignation. The School’s Food Service Manager suggested that the vacancy be posted immediately, and said she was willing to stay on the job to train her successor, even through the end of the school year. She was clear, however, that she will not be returning next year.

The Superintendent told the School Committee that the school’s contracted food service management company had begun the process of hiring the School’s Food Service Manager’s replacement. “She has been a tremendous asset to the school and will be greatly missed,” he added. The committee accepted the School Food Service Manager’s resignation with regret.

“I’m not willing to compromise”

In her letter to the school administration, the School’s Food Service Manager said: “In a nutshell, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not a good fit for this position.” She went on to say she had “discovered that managing the lunch program, maintaining a clean and organized facility” and managing all the necessary administrative tasks “while cooking food from scratch is too much for myself and one part-time employee.”

Although the lunch program staff has also had volunteer assistance, the School’s Food Service Manager said that “relying on a small pool of volunteers to do tasks that are necessary to keep things running smoothly is not sustainable. They don’t always show up, and shouldn’t be expected to.”

“I put in an inordinate number of hours off the clock to keep the operation at a level that I consider acceptable,” the letter continues. “I care deeply about promoting good health, which is not only dependent on wholesome cooking but also on the cleanliness of the kitchen and the proper handling of ingredients from delivery all the way to the serving tray. Because I’m not willing to compromise on any details, I’ve chosen to do whatever it takes to keep this promise to myself, working many hours without pay since my first day on the job.”

Rather than working overtime, which the school’s contracted food service management company prohibits her from doing, the School’s Food Service Manager wrote she has worked eight hours a day “without taking lunch or any other breaks” at the school and then wrote menus and supply orders and completed other required tasks “On my own time. On my home computer. And, less glamorously, I take the dirty rags and aprons home to launder.”

The School’s Food Service Manager admitted she had set high standards for herself and the school’s lunch program. “When I was interviewed for the job, I said that I would only be interested if I was able to offer whole food, meaning I am not willing to serve the children processed, packaged or unhealthy meals.”

The reality was somewhat different. She cited a survey of parents: “Most who responded said their children wanted hot dogs, grilled cheese and pizza. I’ve included more of these items in my menu planning this year along with daily healthier choices. A food service manager with a more lenient food philosophy (and who is less particular about cleanliness) would likely be able to work fewer hours. But I am not willing to compromise.”

The School’s Food Service Manager ended her letter thanking the superintendent and principal for their support. “It is a real pleasure being a small piece of the puzzle and witnessing the good work you all do at the School. As I said, there are many gratifying aspects to this job. And I absolutely love the children.”

Keeping the school kitchen’s grease trap clean and functioning has not been gratifying. In a postscript, the School’s Food Service Manager bluntly described her extra work maintaining the unit, removing “decaying food and grease” daily and scrubbing it weekly. “I don’t know when the unit was purchased but evidence shows that it has never worked properly. The grease receptacle is clean as new” she wrote.

The School’s Food Service Manager said she had “countless conversations” with tradesmen, with the town’s facilities manager, and with a Sewer Commission employee about the grease trap, but without finding a solution.

Grease traps prevent fats, oils, and greases from flowing out with the wastewater into the sanitary sewer system. They are required in commercial establishments that prepare food, such as restaurants and school cafeterias.

If you want to keep food solids from clogging the grease trap in your school cafeteria, consider installing The Drain Strainer. Invented by a former restaurant owner, The Drain Strainer allows your sinks to still drain quickly while capturing the food solids that clog your pipes.

The Drain Strainer also creates an air gap so no backflows can make it back into your 3-compartment sinks and our food scrap collector is an effective and affordable commercial garbage disposal alternative.

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