Interviewee: Shirley Miller
Interviewer: Jeffrey Boyce
Date: October 12, 2007

Description: A lifelong Okolona, MS, resident, Shirley Miller has built her career in the same cafeteria she ate her lunch in as a child at Okolona Elementary School.

Jeffrey Boyce: This is Jeffrey Boyce. I am here at the Okolona Elementary School today, October 12, 2007, with Shirley Miller. Thank you so much Shirley for agreeing to share your story with me today.

Shirley Miller: You’re welcome.

JB: Could you begin by telling me a little bit about yourself, where you were born, where you grew up, and where you went to school?

SM: I was born here in Okolona, Mississippi, and I went to school at Okolona Elementary School.

JB: What is your first, earliest recollection of child nutrition, the school lunch program? Did they have school lunch when you were going to elementary school?

SM: Yes. We came through the cafeteria like it is now, through the line.

JB: Has anything much changed since you were a student?

SM: No, not that I know of.

JB: So, how did you get involved in child nutrition; how did you start to work in the cafeteria?

SM: I heard about an opening and I was looking for a job, so I filled out an application and sent it back the same day.

JB: You were eager.

SM: Yes, I needed a job.

JB: How long have you been working in the cafeteria?

SM: Fourteen years.

JB: What’s your favorite part about your job?

SM: Serving.

JB: So you like the interaction with the children?

SM: Oh, yes.

JB: Any special stories about the children?

SM: Well, they just like to see me laugh all the time and I talk to them when they come through the line. I call their names and they say, “Hey Miss Shirley, Hey Miss Shirley. How are you doing?” I like that. The children like the way I treat them.

JB: What are some of the changes that you’ve seen in the menus in the fourteen years that you’ve been here?

SM: There are a lot of changes. There is more nutritious food now.

JB: Healthier?

SM: Yes.

JB: So you do less frying now than you used to?

SM: Yes.

JB: What are some of the children’s favorite items; what are some of their favorite menus?

SM: Chicken nuggets, pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers.

JB: And french-fries?

SM: Oh, yes.

JB: What are some of the biggest challenges in your job? What are some of the hard things? Or maybe there aren’t any. You look like you enjoy your job.

SM: There are none to me.

JB: So, have you been in the same kitchen for fourteen years?

SM: Yes.

JB: What’s a typical day like? What time do you come in in the morning?

SM: I’m supposed to be here at 7:15, but I get here a little early.

JB: How do you start your day; how do you prepare to serve the lunch?

SM: I come in and I fix the water for the tables, and then I set up my cereal line. And then I set up my line with sausage and biscuit. And then I’m ready for them to come through.

JB: Oh. So you serve breakfast first?

SM: Yes.

JB: Have you always served breakfast; were they doing that for all of these fourteen years?

SM: Yes.

JB: And I guess there’s clean-up after that, and then you have to start getting ready for lunch?

SM: Yes. We fix the line up for lunch and then send the kids on through.

JB: Do they come in shifts? Does the first grade come first?

SM: I have the bigger kids on my line. The fourth grade comes first, and then the fifth, and then the sixth.

JB: How many meals do you serve each day?

SM: Close to four hundred.

JB: Did they have a training program here for the staff when you started?

SM: The experienced workers show the new people what to do and we just all work together.

JB: How many people work in your cafeteria?

SM: Seven.

JB: So it’s a small staff.

SM: We just got one new girl in.

JB: So you all are training her now?

SM: Yes. Me!

JB: So you serve breakfast and lunch then. Are there any snacks during the day?

SM: Yes, for the four-year-olds.

JB: Oh, you have four-year-olds here?

SM: Yes, we have twenty four-year-olds and three teachers. I fix them a snack in the afternoon, usually juice and a cookie or a cracker.

JB: So, you get here about 7:15, and what time does your day end?

SM: Two o’clock.

JB: Anything else you’d like to add?

SM: That’s about it.

JB: Well, thank you for sharing your story with me.

SM: Thank you.