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Shirley Cabri-Rumrill, Food Service Labor Supervisor for San Diego Unified School District, explains what to expect as a part-time substitute for school lunch service.

First, let me ask, are you really hiring, or just accepting applications?

Yes, we are hiring. The Food Service substitute position is open year-round. Nonstop.

So, what’s the process? How does one go about landing on the list of substitutes?

Applicants need to come to our office at the Revere Center – 6735 Gifford Way – to complete an application. And then before we can process the applicant, they’ll also need to get a current food handler’s card.

What does the job entail? Hours? Job duties?

The job is a part-time, on-call substitute position. It’s two hours a day, during the mid-day. It entails serving children, some production – meaning light cooking and food preparation – and cleanup.

Do you have a certain kind of person you’re looking for? Specific qualities?

Hopefully the applicant is someone who wants to work with children. They’ll be working with children at all levels – high school, middle school, and elementary school. It’s a perfect job for moms, but these days everyone’s coming through the door.

Let’s say you hire someone today. How often can they expect to work?

The process takes a bit longer than applying for a job in the private sector. But once the applicant is processed, how often they work depends on where they’re willing to work and where we have openings. We are always looking for Food Service Substitute workers in the northern part of San Diego.

What’s the likelihood that substitute work will lead to a permanent position?

We can’t guarantee a permanent position because we never know at any given time if we’re going to have a vacancy. Some positions a sub might get called for are just daily absences, but other absences maybe more long-term. If we have a vacancy when that sub comes on board, area managers might make them permanent if their performance meets the standards. Vacancies in the beginning of the school year more often lead to permanent work than vacancies in the later part of the school year.

And what’s the pay for a newbie?

$9.65 an hour.

What would you say is the biggest challenge involved in this work?

I think the biggest challenge for anybody is acclimating to a new environment. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle in the kitchens. You have to be able to adapt to that fast pace. If you’re one of those people who always stand on the sidelines, it’s probably not going to work out. You have to involve yourself right from the beginning.

And the biggest reward?

Becoming a salaried employee is certainly a big reward. And if you really enjoy working with kids, it’s a reward in itself. If you enjoy working around food, then you’re going to like what you’re doing every day.

Can you leave us with one bit of advice for those who want to apply?

I would definitely reiterate the importance of wanting to work with kids. First and foremost, that’s what we do. So if your heart isn’t in working with children, you need to reconsider. I’d also say be patient with the process. With any new job, it’s a challenge just to become part of that team. And anyone who can make it through that will probably end up with a permanent position.

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