The scene could not be more frightening: a cool breeze filling a cafeteria, lines out the doors, more than 1,200 high school students with hunger in their eyes, ready to chow down on whatever they could get their hands on.
It's chaotic, hectic and straight out of a horror movie — fitting for Halloween.
But for BHS cafeteria supervisor Virginia Scott, it's just a regular Thursday when turkey and gravy over mashed potatoes is on the menu.
A handful of nutrition service workers prepare around 3,000 meals — breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner — every single day at BHS. Beginning at 6 a.m., Scott's team takes temperatures, heats up the kitchen ovens and begins prepping food for about 600 to 700 breakfast eating students.
Afterward, nutrition service workers have around 45 minutes to set up stations, finish food preparations and get ready for those 1,200 to 1,300 hungry mouths. They also have to be prepared for the 300 to 400 students looking for a snack and 250 that eat dinner.
That's a lot to have on one's plate.
"I like the rush and to stay busy," said Scott. "Kids are here all day long, from sun up to sun down, and they’re hungry."
But even though she can handle the heat, Scott's getting out of the kitchen after 13 years. Scott is hanging up her chef's coat after three years at BHS, following 10 years at Centennial High School as a nutrition service worker.
At Centennial, she began by serving 400 to 500 students, which at that point she thought was a lot. Once she got the hang of feeding the large group, she realized she wanted to become a supervisor. She began training with one of the lead nutrition service workers and helped fill in for the supervisor whenever necessary.
When the supervisor spot opened up at BHS, it was an opportunity Scott was hungry for, and despite the number of mouths she would have to feed more than doubled in size, she was ready for the challenge.
"The lines were just touching the walls," she said, describing students stretching from one end of the cafeteria to the other on her first day. "I’m looking at this like oh, my goodness."
One of the biggest adjustments and challenges was how much food to order each week. Every two weeks shipments come in that include 10 cases of hamburger patties and 12 cases of spicy chicken — at least. When a favorite dish hits the menu — such as turkey and gravy over mashed potatoes or orange chicken — she has to be sure 600 servings are ready.
"You don’t want to run out of food," Scott said bluntly.
Throughout her career, several changes have taken place in Kern High School District's kitchens. Cafeteria workers have gone from simply serving pizza, french fries, soda and other "junk food" items to now including whole wheat and whole grain products, she explained.
But it differs at each site. "Our kids here, they love their salad," and the staff prepares about 150 to 200 entree salads each day. Other schools might only make about 25.
What has helped Scott adjust to it all has been her staff, she explained. It's a group effort, and she keeps a good attitude in the kitchen, which, in turn, has made her "the best supervisor" many have had at BHS.
"She's a good person," said Rhonda Mills, a 22-year nutrition services worker. "She cares about what goes on in the kitchen and outside of it ... she brings a good calm," which helps once those long lines appear.
"She brings a lot into the word teamwork," agreed Janie Everly, who is also a special education instructional aide. "I look forward to coming to work every day."
What's next is being a field coordinator for nutrition services with KHSD. BHS will be one of the schools she will manage, so it's not goodbye forever.
"I am proud to have been part of the Driller Team and I am grateful for each and every one here," she wrote in a final email to the BHS staff. "At the end of the day we are all a team and it's all about the students and their well-being."