photo: marcus rose

photo: marcus rose

Adeyinka is one of the first people to arrive at the school in the morning, sometimes as early as 7am, preparing for one of the most important times of the school day: lunch.

"Some of the kids have packed lunches. Even so, sometimes we have more than 350 kids to feed," she says. "It's s lot. But I'm used to it, because I do it every day. I start cooking at 8am and  Margaret comes in shortly after to assist me.

"The second assistant comes in at 11, and the last at 11.30, and they start cleaning the kitchen before they start serving.

"And if there's something we can prepare for the next day, like a fruit salad, then they will do that."

"It's all about teamwork," adds Margaret. "If you leave it to one person, it’s too much. The staff eat first, at 11.30, before the kids. And if we're not ready by then, we're in trouble. It would be a disaster.

"That's why we come in early, to prepare."

Today's menu includes lasagne, tuna pasta and a veggie burger, but Adeyinka has a detailed menu plan that takes her to April.

"The head office sends me a draft menu, and I go through it with the head teacher. We know what the kids like to eat, and change the menu to suit them, before sending it back to head office.

"I know they don’t like fish curry very much, so I will remove that, look at the balance of the day and the rest of the week and substitute something else to fit. 

"I never get bored. I take pleasure in my work. I really enjoy cooking. I have two kids myself. When I finish cooking for the kids here I go home and cook for my own.

"I’ve worked here since 2001. People appreciate what we do, and the head teacher talks to us nicely and with respect. After all, if we are not here to cook – no-one eats."