Meet the Makers


Celene Koller

Cristi Beightol works at the checkout line during lunch Sept. 17. along with all the other nutritional services staff, Beightol said she enjoys the daily interaction with students in the cafeteria. "I most enjoy meeting different students and getting to know them, she said.

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In her nearly three decades of employment as a “lunch lady” in St. Louis Park Public Schools, Kiem Engelen said she has most enjoyed interacting with students.

“This is my 28th year, so I guess I’ll have to retire soon. But I know I will miss coming and seeing the kids,” Engelen said.

Though nutritional services staff member Debbie Scheie has only one year of experience in the role, she also said the students make her job a pleasure.

“I love when they smile and they talk back and have a conversa- tion with you and they laugh and they giggle,” Scheie said. “I love that bond, that’s the most important.”

Sophomore Samra Ali said she notices the connection between cafeteria staff and students when she goes up to the breakfast and lunch line.
“They’re very talkative, very warm and very friendly people,” Ali said.

Abby Rowan, secretary of the nutrition department, said the nutritional services staff begin work at 7 a.m. and, with only one break for lunch, finish at around 2:30 p.m.

“They go straight through, from start to finish. That kitchen is spotless when they start, and full-running, non-stop, and then again, spotless
when they leave,” Rowan said.

Rowan said the ability to successfully prepare and serve approxi- mately 4,200 meals a day depends on the cooperation of the staff.

“There is a system to this, and they have to work as a team. They’re putting out, whether it’s breakfast or lunch, multiple op- tions, meeting incredible nutrition standards,” Rowan said.

Scheie said the competence and enthusiasm of the kitchen staff allows for an efficient process.

“You need to have a good group, and we do have an excellent group,” Scheie said. “They’re fun, they’re a blast. We work good together, we all come in happy. No complaints.”

Sophomore Talivia Warren said she notices the efficiency of the lunch staff when she gets school breakfasts or lunches.

“They’re on time and make sure the lunch is always hot,” War- ren said.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 4.33.38 PMIn the past 14 years, Robin Luster-Cavlan has worked at every public school in the district except Susan Lindgren. She said doing the dishes presents the biggest challenge.“Running the dishes and doing the pots and pans – that’s the hardest, I think, physically,” Luster-Cavlan said.

Luster-Cavlan said the staff always prepare for the following day ahead of time, so
on Friday, for example, they serve food prepared the previous day and get the food and kitchen ready for Monday.

“We pan it up so it’s ready to be cooked the next day. And that makes life a whole lot easier if everything is done, ready when you first come in,” she said.

Cristi Beightol said she has worked in the Park nutritional ser- vices department for 17 years. She said her children went through St. Louis Park schools and now her grandchildren are going through them.

Beightol said she comes to work every day hoping to ensure every student is both well-fed and happy.

“The goal mostly every day is to make sure that every student that comes through gets a chance to eat a good meal and that no- body really goes home hungry,” Beightol said. “And to make sure they’re having a good day.”

Senior Muad Abdi said he thinks the lunch staff accomplish these goals every day.

“I think they do accomplish their job of helping us get through the day by giving us food, which in turn gives us energy,” Abdi said.

Jodie Woelffer, who joined the nutritional services staff two years ago after 29 years in banking, said she aspires to make stu- dents in the cafeteria happier every single day.

“If a student is having a tough day or whatever and maybe at school or maybe homScreen Shot 2015-10-09 at 4.33.50 PMe, (I hope) that I can maybe be a bright spot to be happy, to make them happy,” she said.

Woelffer said she encourages students to appreciate the people who make their food.
“Never look down on them. They’re just as important as every- one – as a teacher, principal, anyone. No one is unimportant, they all matter,” Woelffer said.

Rowan said she admires the staff for their dedication to ensure all students eat a good meal.

“Those ladies out there are really busting their butts and they deserve a lot of credit for that. They really do,” Rowan said. “I’m very proud of them and grateful that they put in the time that they do.”

Scheie said she appreciates when students say hello or ask her questions, because the students are the true reason why she works at Park.

“We love all you guys. And that’s why we’re here,” Scheie said. “And it’s fun. I’ve known kids that were in kindergarten and they’re up in the high school now. And that is a blast, to see little kids grow up to ninth and 10th graders.”