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Hidden Heroes: Illuminating Lori Walker

Aidan Gomez
Lori Walker, the head lunch lady of Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech), is a vital part of the community, helping run the school cafeteria from her small yet influential office located at the heart of Foothill Tech’s Spirito Hall. She welcomes everyone with a kind smile and charming personality, always willing to help anyone in need. She is such a vital part of the Foothill Tech community and can be easily considered one of Foothill Tech’s Hidden Heroes.

This article is a continuation of the Hidden Heroes series that features essential staff and other personnel on the Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) campus. If you wish to learn more about and appreciate the people who make a high-quality high school experience possible, then this article is for you. 

Inside the Foothill Tech cafeteria, Lori Walker and her team take a moment to pause and smile as they get ready for a nutrition break. The cafeteria serves a variety of food for breakfast such as cereals, pizza sticks and bagels. These hidden heroes of Foothill Tech recommend that you grab a fruit with it as well. Lori Walker has an incredible impact on student nutrition and plays a vital role in keeping Foothill Tech’s cafeteria functioning. (Luigirey Guce)

Before the sun has peeked out from its nightly slumber, the cafeteria of Foothill Tech is lively with warm, brewing preparations for the incoming students. Since the establishment of the school, the cafeteria has been the epicenter for nourishing students of Foothill Tech, boosting their physical, mental and emotional states. However, none of this would be possible without the bright and lively secondary manager of Food and Nutrition Services, Lori Walker. 

Although Walker began working at Foothill Tech 15 years ago, she was first a student in theVentura Unified School District (VUSD), attending Montalvo Elementary School, Anacapa Middle School and Buena High School. She also has two children, now in their 30s, who are alumni of the district. Due to the demanding eight a.m. to five p.m. schedule of her previous job located at the government center, Walker decided to look for one that would allow her more free time and flexibility to take care of her kids. She explained further, stating, “I had worked at some daycares as a cook, and I liked working with the kids,” and when someone suggested working for the school district, she had applied to be a Child Nutrition Assistant Substitute. When Walker realized that she would be able to leave work at the same time her children got out of school, as well as receiving the same summer break, she took the opportunity. 

Over the years, Walker not only became familiarized with the daily faces of Foothill Tech students, but also their favorite menu options. When asked, Walker pulled from countless years of experience to evaluate popular items. Regarding breakfast options, she stated “A lot of the kids like the breakfast burritos, and I like the yogurt parfaits … we [also] have the pizza bagels, [students] like them.” As for lunch, she listed orange chicken, tacos on Taco Tuesday and nachos as top contenders. 

But in order to punctually serve the aforementioned favorite foods at the start of nutrition and lunch break, Walker typically wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and at 6:30 a.m. begins work in the kitchen. Along with Child Nutrition Assistant I’s (CNN I) Brianna Clark, Nicte-Ha Diez and “Lulu” Garcia, as well as Child Nutrition Assistant III (CNN III) Karen Kaiser, Walker works most days from morning to 3:00 p.m., coming out to a 40-hour work week. 

Sofia Patiño

She added that many of her cafeteria coworkers also pursue other paths outside of their current job in the district, such as further education. However, Walker stated that one of the things that personally keeps her going are “The interactions with the kids … That’s why I’m always [at the register], because I don’t want to be back there (the kitchen) … [since] then I can’t talk to [any of the students].”

Walker went on to describe that her favorite thing students do is when they either express their gratitude or communicate which menu items they do or don’t like, so they can know how to plan meals in the future. Walker and the other nutrition assistants always try to promote healthy eating.“I really love … when I see a kid coming through with a [colorful] lunch tray,” Walker stated.

Furthermore, Walker cherishes her daily interactions with the student workers in the cafeteria. Regarding Ethan Ortiz ‘24, Isaac Decaen ‘24, Aliana Hantgin ‘25 and Alexander Lawson ‘25, Walker stated, “We are super fortunate to have them because a lot of what they do is stuff that I would have to do, or [they] help out our other ladies.” From the other point of view, Ortiz expressed, “Lori’s the best boss I’ve ever had, and I’ve known her [for] forever, so it’s so nice to be able to work for her.” 

Despite what many may be unaware of, many students have little to no access to nourishing, consistent meals at home. According to Feeding America, a non-profit organization, one in seven children in California face hunger, and more than half of Californian individuals under the age of 18 rely on school-provided free lunches for their daily meal. Here on the Foothill Tech campus, kitchen staff ensure that students have access to sufficient meals “to get through the day, to help with their brain [and] to study,” Walker explained. She continued by saying, “There’re a lot of kids in our district who don’t have complete meals every day. So to… know that they’re getting well-balanced meals, it makes me kind of emotional.”

Dozens of essential workers like Walker exist within VUSD, many of who might slip past our attention. However, it is vital to recognize these individuals as the incredibly valuable components that they are, especially in supporting students throughout their elementary and high school education. Walker concludes by outlining the main purpose of her and her fellow cafeteria workers’ jobs by stating, “It is for the kids; our department is for the kids.”

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About the Contributors
Jane Kim
Jane Kim, Writer
First-year writer with a passion for music, current events and science.
Kalea Eggertsen
Kalea Eggertsen, Writer
Aspiring fiction author and first-year writer who has been at it ever since she could hold a pencil.
Sofia Patiño
Sofia Patiño, Videographer
Second-year journalist and Frank Ocean enthusiast.
Aidan Gomez
Aidan Gomez, Photographer
Second-year journalist and athlete who loves to hang out with friends.
Luigirey Guce
Luigirey Guce, Photographer
I'm a junior photographer who enjoys playing basketball and listening to Drake. :)

Comments (1)

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    AbrahamFeb 20, 2024 at 1:48 pm

    Lori is very kind she is a polite person and I appreciate you gals highlighting what people like her do.