Cafeteria struggles as student workforce declines

Stephanie Willison prepares the salad bar at the cafeteria. Recently,
the cafeteria closed the salad bar on Saturday due to a student worker
shortage. Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Photo by: Maiya Banks)
Stephanie Willison prepares the salad bar at the cafeteria. Recently, the cafeteria closed the salad bar on Saturday due to a student worker shortage. Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Photo by: Maiya Banks)

Service jobs, like those at the cafeteria, tend to feel the effects of low staffing the hardest, according to Teddy Kyriakidis, Southern Adventist University’s Food Services director. He explained that the decline in student cafeteria workers has been occurring over the past seven years.

 According to Kyriakidis, the reason for the worker shortage could be a combination of multiple factors, including COVID-19 and the fact that it is a hands-on job that many students may not consider. 

Low-staffing of student workers in the cafeteria leads to various problems. The salad bar has had to be closed on Saturdays because there are not enough workers according to Kyriakidis. He said he believes that Sabbath observance has played a role in the lack of student workers on Saturday and that staffing on Sunday is also difficult because many students want to sleep in and don’t like working on that day. 

Milé Pinero, senior English literature major and a cafeteria cashier, said that since the cafeteria is understaffed, the student workers who already work there are given more tasks. 

“From what I’ve noticed, because the cafeteria is often understaffed, more work falls on the shoulders of people with different job descriptions, and some people might not think that is fair,” Pinero said. 

Sophomore mass communication major Keishla Galán works as a cashier at the cafeteria. She agreed that student workers there are given a lot of work.

“As a student that has been working in the cafeteria for almost three years, I can testify that it is a lot of work,” Galán said. “In my experience, there is always so much work, and unfortunately as workers we are not always compensated for that. Currently, I am a cashier at the cafeteria, which is a job that I’m enjoying more than my past ones.” 

Kyriakidis said there are benefits to working in the cafeteria. 

“Students have the opportunity to learn many things while working in the cafeteria like time management, food service and how to have a strong work ethic,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to make friends with your co-workers.” 

The cafeteria offers very flexible hours, according to Kyriakidis. He said a student can work a minimum of just two hours at a time, and there are shifts available from morning till evening. The location is more accessible for students than off-campus work. 

Kyriakidis said cafeteria work is “necessary and needed” and encouraged students to consider working there.

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