Ask Amy: "Lunch Ladies" Deserve Extra Portion of Gratitude

By Amy Dickinson | May 17th, 2021

School heroes aren't merely reserved for the classroom


Lunch ladies at a school cafeteria Image

Dear Amy: In a recent question from “Upset and Embarrassed,” the writer noted that fellow nurses bullied her, calling her a “lunch lady.”

I wanted to share a story about lunch ladies, who should be respected and lifted up for feeding our children with a smile.

I’m not sure how universal my experience is, but I like to believe that there are more stories like mine.

When I was in school, I was shunned for a variety of reasons, by students and teachers alike. I often sat completely alone in a corner during breakfast and lunch.

I was often the first to arrive at breakfast period in order to get away from home earlier.

I’m not sure if the lunch ladies noticed this or were just fond of me, but they became some of the most welcoming, nurturing people in my school life.

They always greeted me with more enthusiasm and bright smiles than anyone else. They made sure I had enough to eat, even when I had no money.

Eventually I became sort of an assistant, spending my lunch periods learning how to use the equipment, and how a commercial kitchen worked.

On many days, their welcome ensured I came to school instead of skipping the day altogether, and I think their pseudo-mentorship shaped my life more deeply than anyone could imagine a “lunch lady” could.

“Lunch Lady” should never be an insult. Mine were heroes.

– Former “Lunch Boy”


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Dear Former “Lunch Boy”: This is such a moving and well-deserved tribute to some of the lesser-recognized personnel at school – the lunch staff, librarians, bus drivers, band and choral teachers, janitorial staff, administrative assistants, security officers, and student teachers.

I hope that every adult who works in a school environment recognizes the power of eye contact, a smile, and the recognition to a child that: “I see you.”

Thank you so much for this letter. I hope it is printed out and posted in cafeterias everywhere.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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