Children file by the lunch counter, hungry for nachos, their laughter and excited chatter rising above the steady whir of industrial-sized ovens, warmers and sinks.
After sitting idle for three weeks during winter break, the kitchens at Clovis schools were firing up Wednesday for the first day of school.
Clovis Municipal Schools serve 9,700 meals a day, including breakfast and lunch, according to child nutrition supervisor Paul Kline. La Casita Elementary schools serves up the most of the bunch, feeding 417 students at La Casita and delivering another 150 meals to students at the Lincoln-Jackson Family Center.
Sonya Campos, the food service manager for La Casita, said her staff was excited to get back into the swing of things.
“I came in yesterday to wipe everything down and get everything ready for today,” she said.
Campos said she and her three-person staff began their first day of school by unloading a truck filled with groceries.
“Today was our first day so it was our Monday,” she said.
Campos said they were especially excited about seeing the fifth- and sixth-grade student helpers.
“They love it. Students are always asking if they can work back here. If I could, they would all work back here,” she said.
“They’re great workers. They’ll be great workers when they get older too. It’s good to start them young,” she said.
Lydia Gonzales, 11, said she made sure her teacher remembered it was her turn to work in the kitchen for the first day of school.
“I like getting to help people and serving them. We always take turns,” she said.
Campos said she’s always enjoyed cooking and being around children, so working in food service at the schools is a dream job for her.
“It’s great watching the kids grow. I used to work in the high school and the students remember you. You’ll go to a restaurant and a student will be there working and they’ll know you. They’ll say ‘You’re the lunch lady, I remember you,’” she said. “It’s nice.”
Kline said that meals across the district went well on the first day of school.
“We kind of geared the food toward the kids. They love nachos,” he said. “Even the managers who love the time off were excited to get back.”