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Salary of a School Lunch Lady

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"School lunch lady" is an antiquated term for what we now refer to as school cafeteria workers. These workers prepare breakfast and lunch for students at the elementary and secondary school levels. They follow menu guidelines established by the districts they work for; check food and ingredients for freshness; prepare condiments; store food in containers; clean and sanitize equipment, utensils, dishes, tables and chairs; work in the serving line; and interact with students. Their salaries vary by school district, position and other factors.

Mean Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that food preparers and servers at elementary and high school cafeterias earned a mean wage $23,690 a year or $11.39 an hour as of May 2013. Cooks at school cafeterias averaged $22,980 a year or $11.05 an hour. Both were higher than the average for other food preparation and service employees, who earned a mean $21,580 a year, but lower than the average for cafeteria and institution cooks, who earned a mean $24,670. Other employees in the field work for hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants and other establishments. Unlike these employees, school cafeteria employees typically work about 10 months per year rather than year-round.


Candice Mancini has always loved matching people with career paths. After earning her master's degree in education from the University at Albany, she spent a decade teaching and writing before becoming a full-time writer. Mancini has published articles and books on education, careers, social issues, the environment and more.

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