Eyes on East Heroes – Susan Zander

Cafeteria Manager Susan Zander


Photo by Julia Ehlers

Susan Zander working to serve breakfast to students in the cafeteria before school

The amazing East Hero this week is Cafeteria Manager Susan Zander!  She has worked at East as a manager for 3 years, and before that, she worked in the cafeteria at Humann Elementary, and at Southwest High School.  Between getting a degree in Foods and Nutrition, raising her own kids, and working with students at different schools, Ms. Zander discovered that she has a passion for feeding students and children, and it’s obvious from talking to her that she loves what she does.

Most days, Ms. Zander gets to school at about 5:45 in the morning, and works to open the kitchens and prepare breakfast for about a hundred students.  “I love breakfast because it’s just me, and them, and those kids that have come for breakfast are kids who have always come for breakfast, so you really get to know them,” she says.  After breakfast, the cafeteria staff them comes, and they begin to get a variety of things ready for that day’s lunch.

Lunch the past two years has been a bit of an adjustment for Ms. Zander and the cafeteria staff, as East is the only school in the district that offers three full-period lunches.  This may have been helpful for students and staff to have a longer lunch, but the cafeteria staff lost an hour of preparation time for each of the staff members, or in other words, 13 hours of prep time.  “Now we fit some of the prep work in the middle, when we can, because there’s a lot of down time in between,” she explained.

As the cafeteria manager, where Ms. Zander works varies from day to day.  “I’m wherever they need me, on the line, at the cash register, wherever, panning up [getting food ready] for the next day, and doing all my paperwork for lunch and breakfast, how much inventory I have, starting my next day’s order, making sure everyone is happy, and staying busy!”  After lunch each day, Ms. Zander takes care of all of the paperwork and accounting for the cafeteria – tasks like ordering the next day’s meals, recording how many students and staff ate lunch and breakfast, and other similar tasks.

All of this is completely worth it to her, because of the students.  Throughout the interview, she emphasized how much she loves connecting with them.  “I want them to know that I notice them, that I care if they’re there everyday, that I care if they get what they want to eat, that they’re happy with their lunch, comfortable, that we serve the things that they like, that they feel like someone is recognizing their existence.”  She’s there for every student who comes through the cafeteria on a daily basis, so don’t take her for granted and say thanks!