Schools in Minnesota ask parents to volunteer for lunch shifts because of a labor shortage ‘crisis’ in cafeterias

School lunch dinner
Schools have been struggling to find teachers, bus drivers, and kitchen staff. Oli ScarffF/AFP via Getty Images
  • A school district in Minnesota asked parents to volunteer at cafeterias because of the labor shortage.
  • A director at the district told KARE 11 that the shortage of cafeteria staff was a “crisis.”
  • More than 100 parents had stepped in to help, the network reported.

Parents are having to volunteer for shifts at school cafeterias in Minnesota because of a staff shortage, per a report by KARE 11.

Emily Malone, the director of the Child Nutrition Services Department at Prior Lake-Savage Area school district, told the station that the shortage of cafeteria staff was a “crisis.”

The US is suffering from a huge labor shortage as workers quit their jobs in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Schools have been struggling to find teachers, bus drivers, and kitchen staff.

Malone told KARE 11 that the department had 19 unfilled positions, and that she was trying to hire one or two people each week but progress was slow.

For example, it is trying to recruit six part-time helpers at Prior Lake High School, per vacancies listed on its website. The role pays $US16.50 ($AU22) an hour and tasks include preparing food, cleaning, serving students, and performing cashier duties when needed.

The district, which has around 8,900 students, provides free breakfast and lunch meals to most of its students, regardless of income eligibility.

Malone said that parents had quickly stepped in to help after the district asked for volunteers. KARE 11 reported that 124 parents had volunteered for a total of 220 lunch slots over the next month.

“Within a matter of hours, 95% of the slots were filled,” Malone said, though she noted that the schools may still need volunteers after Thanksgiving if they can’t hire enough new staff.

Other schools across the US are trying unusual tactics to cope with their labor shortages. One high school in Boston hired a party bus with a stripper pole after being unable to find any bus drivers, while an elementary school in Philadelphia bought pizza for 400 students after food-services staff didn’t show up.