School dinner ladies (also known as School Meal Supervisory Assistants) are those who supervise the activities of children during mealtime. Dinner ladies assist the children in the dining area, supervise the kitchen work, and keep an eye on the younger children to make sure that they are eating their lunch.
Supervision in the Dining Area
Dinner ladies supervise the students in the dining area. They ensure that the students collect their lunch trays, sit at their tables and then return the trays, all in a disciplined manner. They also supervise the general hygiene in the area – ensuring that the students wash their hands before eating -- and make sure that they do not spill or waste food.
In the case of children with special dietary needs, dinner ladies ensure that proper substitutes are available so that the children get nourishing meals. They have to pay close attention to children with food allergies, and ensure that they do not eat anything that is likely to harm them. In the case of younger children, the supervisor may have to help carry their lunch trays to the tables, cut up their food for them, and open packages whenever necessary.
Safety and First Aid
The dinner lady must make sure that the atmosphere in the dining room is safe, and that the children do not injure themselves. If a child is injured, she should promptly provide first aid to the child, and then decide if he needs further medical assistance. In some schools, dinner ladies keep an eye on the children in the playground as well.
Dinner ladies have to be comfortable with children, and be able to deal with them on a daily basis. Good people skills, willingness to work hard, patience in dealing with children and an ability to supervise many people at the same time are essential qualities. A knowledge of cooking and basic first aid procedures are also required.