All students at Wake County schools received lunch Tuesday despite a cafeteria worker protest

Andrea Blanford Image
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
All WCPSS students fed despite worker protest
Despite some cafeteria workers refusing to show up for work Tuesday, no child in Wake County Public School System went hungry.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Despite some cafeteria workers refusing to show up for work Tuesday, no child in Wake County Public School System went hungry.

Parents, community members and more all stepped up to make sure every child had a tasty and nutritious meal for lunch.

Some parents went to big box store and bought food and water, some community members helped organize drop-offs, and some businesses stepped up to provide food.

Tracy Gower, the owner of Bru's On Main in Fuquay-Varina, saw the alert Monday about the possible protest and knew she had to help.

"I can't stand anybody going hungry. Like I said, that's one of my passions is to feed all the hungry," Gower said.

So she put her company to work making chicken Philly cheesesteaks with macaroni and cheese. She said she's not sure what meals they'll do if the protest continues, but she's committed to helping out any way she can.

According to statistics from Foodbank, 22 percent of children younger than 18 are food insecure and 32 percent of students rely on free and reduced lunch in Wake County.

That means, for some students, their lunch at school is there only sure-fire meal of the day.

WCPSS announced Tuesday morning that all meals were covered Tuesday, thanks to the generosity of people like Gower.

WCPSS leaders are optimistic meal service will return to normal Wednesday, but they said more contingency plans are in place no matter what.

This latest worker protest comes weeks after Wake County school bus drivers protested their own compensation weeks ago.

Days after those bus drivers went on strike, the school district passed $1,200 bonuses for all employees.

The school district is set to meet again Tuesday to discuss dishing out even more bonuses. This time the school board will vote on bonuses worth $3,750 possible bonuses which would be paid out in three increments over the course of the next year.

The board will also discuss raising substitute teacher pay from $80 to $104 per day, or from $103 to $130 for certified substitute teachers.

A Wake County schools spokesperson told ABC11 that there is a 20% vacancy rate among school-based Child Nutrition Services positions as of Nov. 1.

The minimum level of pay for employees in the district is $13 per hour following the Board's approval of this change earlier this month.

The spokesperson cautioned that pay rates vary across food services workers because there are multiple positions on different pay grades and salaries also vary depending on an individual's years of service.

With the district struggling to fill open positions, it is hosting a virtual job fair Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. Principals and hiring managers plan to meet virtually with candidates, review resumes and conduct interviews for various open positions--such as teachers, support staff and bus drivers.

Click here for more information about the virtual job fair.