Recently, FoodService Director took to social media to gauge how FSDs felt about a story highlighting two school cafeteria workers in Texas who were fired for taking home leftovers.
The post sparked so much dialogue among readers that we reached out to a few operators to ask if they if agreed with how the situation was handled and whether they would they have done anything differently. Here’s what they had to say:
If the school acted in accordance with its policies, Robert Darrah, director of dining services at Legacy Retirement Communities, says he agrees with the district’s decision to let them go. Yet he would’ve handled the situation differently for two reasons: food costs and staff shortages.
“In Lincoln, Nebraska, where we’re located, the unemployment rate is a little under 2 percent,” he says. “Employees are at a premium, so firing someone over a piece of fruit would be like me shooting myself in the foot. I would have written them up and let them go back to work.”
The flipside, Darrah says, is when cooks are overproducing food in order for there to be leftovers taken home, which raises food costs.
“We provide meals to our staff free of charge and that’s already factored into our food costs,” he says. “Employees taking home food isn’t, so it’s a real issue when it comes to food costs in the kitchen.”
At Akron Children’s Hospital, the foodservice department policy states that staff eating is limited to new product samples and leftovers, according to Director of Support Services Donna Fleck. “To my knowledge, we’ve never terminated someone for something like this,” she says, “but in this day and age with video cameras, I think it’s unwise for anyone to take anything without paying for it.”
In these types of situations, communication is essential, Fleck says, which is why she lets her staff know they can speak to her about anything.
“You have to have rules, but there are people that are hungry and you have to do the right thing,” she added. “I have personally purchased food—like eggs, peanut butter, bread and cheese—for employees. I’d rather for them come to me with a situation as opposed to something bad happening like this.”
Each situation is different, Brandon Williams, senior director of dining and nutrition at Carilion Clinic says, adding that while he may have acted differently, there could have been issues outside of taking food home at play.
“Yes, taking home leftovers is an issue but there’s not enough information I know about the situation,” Williams says. “It may or may not have been [the employees’] first disciplinary action because they could’ve had some for other things. I’m not so sure if we would have let them go depending on that, but we have a pretty cut and dry policy here, which doesn’t allow staff to take home food unless it’s paid for and they have a receipt.”
Williams notes that when it comes to company policies and department protocols, consistency is key.
“Maintain whatever you have established as your practices and protocols,” he says. “If you catch one person stealing one day and discipline them, but don’t do the same to someone for the next day, you’ll have HR inconsistencies.”