Naked lunchroom! PS 107 left without its cook in city budget cut

Naked lunchroom! PS 107 left without its cook in city budget cut
File photo by Bess Adler

Parents at Park Slope’s PS 107 are fired up over a city decision to transfer their beloved lunch lady because the lunchroom serves slightly less than the minimum daily requirement of school meals.

The Department of Education has transferred Lucy Torres — who has worked at the school for 17 years — because her school is about 50 PB&Js short of the required 300 lunches.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Principal Cynthia Holton. “We feel defeated.”

Torres didn’t want to speak about the transfer, but on Friday, Torres’s last day, many parents and administrators were quite vocal about the loss.

“It’s a huge bummer,” said Brendan Vaughan, whose son is in first grade. “It would be terrific to find a way for her to stay.”

Torres’s transfer is causing extra concern because she doesn’t serve the usual lunchroom fare of quasi-meat with a side of microwaved who-knows-what.

Students fill up on a cornucopia of fresh vegetables and pesto pasta seasoned with basil straight from the school’s outdoor garden, which was set up by Torres and the school’s Wellness Committee.

“They have better lunch now than they’ve ever had,” said Raisa Maldondo, who has a granddaughter in third grade, and has a 30-year relationship with the school.

“Back in the day, I remember the tin-foil-wrapped mystery meals,” said Maldondo. “But now, Sky loves the broccoli, the salad bar — who’s ever heard of a salad bar at a school cafeteria?”

School administrators are frustrated that the Department of Education is transferring Torres this year — especially since Miss Lucy, as many call her, is nearing retirement.

“It seems like a stingy and heartless decision to make her transfer only one year before retirement,” said Rachel Goodman, an aide to Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).

Unfortunately, stingy is as stingy does; the Department of Education must cut costs, given a nine-percent state funding cut proposed in Albany last week.

Torres began working at PS 107 in 1994, when all students qualified for the city’s free lunch program. Over time, gentrification led to a decrease in the number of free lunches served every day — but parents say that Torres’s extra effort should more than make up the difference and justify the slightly higher pay she receives compared to her replacement.

“Our numbers are below the threshold, but the labor that goes into this food is more,” said Wellness Committee member Jonathan Blumberg. “So it’s not that she was performing a lower job on a higher salary.”

And the bottom line for most parents wasn’t numbers, but nourishment.

“These are her children,” said PTA President Mary Vines. “To have it be a bureaucratic numbers game is very frustrating.

“The other day, there was tuna fish, and Lucy made it the way that my daughter likes it,” Vines said.

The Education Department declined to comment.

Students at PS 107 enjoyed Lucy Torres’s wholesome hummus and baba ganoush at last year’s “Harvest Festival,” but the longtime lunch lady has been transferred in a bureaucratic shuffle.
Photo by Tom Callan