SHS kitchen manager brings farm fresh foods to the cafeteria table

SHS kitchen manager brings farm fresh foods to the cafeteria table

At Scottsburg High School, kitchen manager Cindy Waters brings the farm to the table each day for more than 800 students.

“I start at 6:30 a.m., and we have breakfast going at 7:15,” Waters said. “We have to be ready at 10:30 a.m. to feed three lunches. I end my day at 1:30.”

Before Waters started in the kitchen at SHS, she started on the farm and in the greenhouse. She and her husband owned a greenhouse business for 19 years, where she grew flowers and vegetables.

“We jumped in, and it became a pretty viable business,” Waters said.

Each January, Waters would start ordering dirt and supplies for her greenhouse business, where she would grow hanging baskets, flower pots, fresh herbs and spices, and various vegetables. By the end of February, she would have the flowers and seeds planted and begin the growing process until mid-April.

“It’s crazy from then on,” Waters said.

Then, as fireworks light the sky in celebration of America’s independence, Waters and her husband would close for the season and take a short break before starting all over again. During the late summer, it was time for Waters to start working in the cafeteria and prepare for a new school year.

“It was a perfect combination for me,” Waters said.

Waters took her experience in the greenhouse and applied it to her preparation of breakfast and lunch meals.

“We make steamed squash and zucchini. We have homefries with breakfast. It takes 150 pounds of potatoes to make,” Waters said. “You feel like you will never get through 150 pounds of potatoes.”

On Mondays and Fridays, the cafeteria crew tries to make more home-cooked meals, such as Turkey Manhattans and Salisbury Steak. They also make a Philly cheesesteaks with sautéed onions and peppers and whole-grain cookies.

“We plan those for Mondays and Fridays because they take the longest to make,” Waters said. “We make green beans — boiled down and seasoned — like Granny would.”

In the meals at SHS, she and the kitchen staff try to incorporate as many fresh vegetables and fruits in the meals, even though many Americans enjoy highly-processed, convenient, calorie-rich meals.

“The food has changed. Tastes have changed. Students like more fast food and more processed food,” Waters said. “We used to make beans and cornbread. [Students] are just not into that anymore. We try satisfy everybody. We mix it up. We have a grill line, so they can always get something.”

Even though tastes have changed, one thing has stayed the same for Waters — her interaction with the students.

“Each lunch, I go in and out,” Waters said. “I talk to them. You get to know the kids. What they like to eat. What they did in their off time. It’s fun for me.”

When she is not in the kitchen, Waters is in the classroom. She speaks with the students in family and consumer science classes about the value of fresh herbs and spices in meal preparation.

“I love growing herbs. I love using them,” Waters said. “I love how good they make your food taste. Basil is my favorite. You can put it on anything.”

Waters brings her knowledge of growing fresh ingredients to the meals of many SHS students each day. The meals Waters and the cafeteria staff create are what helps fuel our students to do their best in their classes. At Scott County School District 2, Waters’ story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.