Interviewee: Sylvia Frazer
Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce
Date: June 27, 2016
Location: Bovoni, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Description: Sylvia Frazer worked as a school foodservice manager in the Virgin Islands.
Jeffrey Boyce: I’m Jeffrey Boyce and it is June 27, 2016, and I am here in Bovoni on St. Thomas with Sylvia Frazer. Welcome Sylvia and thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
Sylvia Fraser: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.
JB: Could we begin by you telling me a little bit about yourself, where you were born and where you grew up?
SF: Well, I was born in the British Virgin Islands.
JB: Which one?
JB: That’s very near here actually, isn’t it?
JB: And that’s where you grew up?
SF: I grew up there.
JB: And so you went to school there?
SF: I went part of my school there and finished my school in St. Thomas.
JB: Did they have a lunch program on Tortola?
SF: No. We take our lunch. So I grew up partly there, and finish my high school years in St. Thomas.
JB: Was there a lunch program in St. Thomas?
JB: Did you participate?
SF: No. When I came I came and I went straight to Adult Education, and finished twelfth grade there.
JB: Oh, I see. Well, how did you get involved in child nutrition?
SF: Well, I was a cook at Marriott Frenchman’s Reef for twenty years, and I left there and I decided I would like to go into the school lunch program. So there I applied as a cook, and I only cook there for about one month, and after they see the potential of me, how I work, and how I move about, I was placed to be a kitchen manager.
JB: And how long ago was that? How long have you been doing this?
SF: Fourteen years, and I also join and work in the Summer Program, and for the time that I start working with the School Lunch Program I enroll and work with the Summer Program every year.
JB: OK. How many school locations do you have with the Summer Program?
SF: Well, with the Summer Program we have different groups come and pick up food. Sometimes we cook for like 3,000.
JB: Oh wow, three thousand in a day?
SF: Um-hum. But during the regular school year we cook for six hundred.
JB: Six hundred, OK, that’s a little more manageable. Tell me what’s a day like for you as a manager? What time does your day start?
SF: My day starts at six, supposed to finish at two, but sometimes I’m here until five o’clock.
JB: So what do you do, what’s the first thing you do when you get here?
SF: Well, the first thing I do when I open up, I take the temperature of my freezer and cooler to see that they are up and running and still run the same temperatures. The last thing before I go home I make sure, I check the temperature again before I leave, to see everything is perfect.
JB: And in between what do you do all day?
SF: To begin the day we have breakfast, we have lunch, and we have snack. And between the working time sometime I have to go on the line, sometime I have to help the cooks. Sometimes we short of one cook. We have two cooks. Sometimes I have to cook. Sometime I have to go on the line. Sometimes I have to clean tables if we short. Mop. Sometimes I even have to clean bathrooms, take the garbage out.
JB: So whatever the job takes?
SF: Whatever it takes. And I really go above and beyond my duty. I do not look back and say, “I’m the kitchen manager. I’m not doing this.” I go above and beyond with a pleasure.
JB: I think school lunch people are special people.
JB: What are some of the kids’ favorite menu items? What foods do the kids like best?
SF: Chicken. They like chicken, rice, and spaghetti.
JB: How do you prepare the chicken here?
SF: Well, sometimes we have barbecue chicken, which we put the chicken in the oven, and after it’s baked we put some barbecue sauce and we stick it back in the oven. They love that.
JB: What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
SF: The biggest challenge I face is sometimes not having the equipments working. That’s my biggest challenge.
JB: You have equipment but it doesn’t work?
SF: Yea, that’s my biggest challenge.
JB: What changes have you seen in child nutrition over the years?
SF: Over the years I have seen that the school lunch has been dropped from where I saw it when I came in to where it is now in the food. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down.
JB: So the quality is not where it used to be?
SF: The quality used to be more than what it is now.
JB: And why do you think that is?
SF: You can’t have quantity and quality at the same time. You must either have quantity or quality. And within school lunch I see that they having quantity and not quality. I prefer to have quality and not quantity. If you have the quality you bring in more kids to eat, than you have quantity and do not have the quality – which I prefer quality and not quantity.
JB: So how would you solve that, more staff, more equipment?
SF: To solve that it will have to come from School Lunch, whoever ordering the food, because if you order a certain kind of beef, they may look at the quantity and the price, but then when you get in that quantity and they don’t like it, it go out the door, go to the garbage. But if you have the quality and not the quantity, you get more out of that quality than you get out of the quantity.
JB: I see. So if an inferior product is coming in then you have a lot of waste.
JB: Do you have any stories about memorable children you’ve served or people you worked with over the years?
SF: The children I’ve worked with over the years, the past years, over the past years the children more participate than this.
JB: So participation has increased?
JB: What would you say has been your most significant contribution to the field so far? What is the best thing you’ve done for the school nutrition program?
SF: I’m involved in everything there is. I get involved in whatever it takes.
JB: What advice would you give someone who was considering looking for a job in child nutrition?
SF: Well, I would tell them it’s very interesting. You think that you don’t know, you’re able to learn. And with that you have to put your interest in learning it. It’s not something that you just pick up. You have to be willing to learn. You have to be willing to go above and beyond.
JB: For the program to be successful?
SF: For it to be successful. Now every year I’m going to retire, but I don’t know why. I love it.
JB: You must love it. It shows.
SF: I love it. And I always said, “Whatever I like for myself, I like it for my workers.”
JB: That’s important.
SF: I said, “If it’s not good for you to eat, do not give it to a child.” If I can’t eat it I’m not going to give it to you. If something is burned just throw it out. Do not say, “Oh, they could have it.” It’s no, because if you’re not going to eat it, why should I give it to a child?
JB: Anything else you’d like to add today?
SF: I really like working for the school lunch. It’s a great privilege – not money-wise – the money is not that high. But I look about what I can do, and as I said, I go above and beyond my duty, because it’s something I love doing. I love cooking.
JB: I think you love the kids too.
SF: And I love the kids.
JB: Well thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me.
SF: You’re welcome.