TIME TO EAT: Andalusia High School begins school year with opening of new cafeteria

Published 9:15 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

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Andalusia High School expanded on its rich tradition prior to the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year with the addition of a brand new cafeteria on campus.

Branded with the Andalusia “A” logo and adorned in school colors, a new cafeteria was necessary due to an increase in enrollment at AHS.

“We outgrew the older cafeteria,” Principal Ray Wilson said. “I’ll be honest with you that I ate in the old cafeteria in 1986 and 1987. I don’t know when it was originally built, but it got to where we were having to seat kids in the multi-purpose room outside the cafeteria. It wasn’t a good situation for us. Dr. (Daniel) Shakespeare and the school board are really progressive in seeing needs, and they got the ball rolling. I can’t say enough about starting the year off in this building. It took us a while to get in it, but it is very, very nice and state of the art.”

This year’s cafeteria staff includes manager Latasker Lawrence, assistant manager DeLisa Freeney, Angie Brewer, Martha Cook, Angela Curry, Holly Gunter, and Katie Riley.

The cafeteria is located on the west end of the school campus with several additions including new appliances and seating.

“Our lunchroom staff needed a larger kitchen. A lot of their kitchen stoves, ovens, and freezer units were old and out of date. We were able to add another buffet line for the students to feed them quicker, so they have more time to eat. Lunchtime is only 20 minutes, and it is important that we get them in and out to eat.”

One of the new additions is the return of a salad bar.

“Now that we have room and space for it, those types of things will be added. I had three compliments on the food this morning from students. They told me they have only eaten lunch one time since they have been in high school, and now they have eaten in here every day this week. This builds morale and makes students want to come in and eat. It’s been a big plus for us,” he said.

ACS child nutrition director Shan Burkhardt developed ideas for the new look.

“Administration and board members looked at her ideas collectively. She did a great job and came to me asking what I thought. I like having our brand all over the walls and tables. The booths are state of the art along with high tables on the side. It gives you an opportunity to sit in a small group or a larger group depending on your preference.”

According to Wilson, feedback on the cafeteria has been positive.

“Our board members were here Monday, while the students were coming in and eating. They were taking pictures and videoing. We have received a lot of compliments about it. The students’ eyes seeing it for the first time fills your heart with pride. A lot of our faculty eats in here, and it is nice to have extra space instead of supervising and monitoring two different places during lunch. We have our own bathrooms in this building and can supervise them all in one central place,” he said.

Students will be provided free breakfast and lunch this school year through a federal program.

“Mrs. Burkhardt found out a week before school starts that the federal government puts this program out. We did it during the year of COVID and the year after. It’s a game changer with a good meal each and every day. For some students, it may be the only meal they get, but it will be the best meal they get. Mrs. Burkhardt takes into consideration what the students like and what they sell more of, but country fried steak is the most popular item on the menu based on surveys. There are other things like chicken sandwiches the kids like, and our staff does a great job preparing their meals.”

Nearly 800 students are fed daily with approximately 450 in high school and around 300 in junior high.

AHS will hold an open house Tuesday, August 22, 6 p.m., with an assembly in the school auditorium. The cafeteria will be open for parents to tour afterward.