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Chile verde burritos big hit at Manteca High
Susan Robinson waits on students at the Manteca High cafeteria. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• School: Manteca High School
• Meals Served: More than 800 lunches, nearly 800 breakfasts (brunch included)
• Most Popular Item: Pepperoni Pizza, chicken sandwiches, Chile Verde burritos
• What I Got For My $1.75: A teriyaki chicken bowl, a side salad, and a bottle of water
• Overall Grade: A. Manteca High has always been the school with tradition, and the cramped quarters and spaced out kitchen location is different in a good way. Students seem to enjoy the period immensely, and there was a run on cafeteria lunches for the majority of the half-hour period.

The cafeteria at Manteca High isn’t the shiniest of the five high school lunch havens.

The brick façade that helps give Manteca’s oldest high school the unique charm that sets it apart from the cookie-cutter layouts that have become standard fare for the last three campuses constructed comprises the bulk of the outline of the cafeteria building. It gives those who pass through the doors the sense that a lot of conversations have been had at those tables over the course of the school’s run.

It’s the history and the traditions that help make Manteca High special.

And for Faith Fennelly – the satellite kitchen operator charged with overseeing the preparation of everything served to students for breakfast, brunches, and lunch – the cramped quarters behind the brand-new lunch counter just add another facet to the uniqueness of how things work at Manteca High School.

“You’ve got to watch your step when you’re coming around corners back here because you never know who’s coming around the other side – there’s really no room to make a mistake,” she said laughingly. “We’ve got our walk-in in place, and our freezer is outside. It’s just the way that things are when you’re working with limited space.

“It’s definitely different than what it was set-up as a few years ago, and the way that things are operating now seem to be well-received by the kids.”

As if serving the roughly 800 lunches that students clear on a daily basis in cramped quarters wasn’t enough of a challenge, Fennelly also has to make sure that the off-site preparations have also been taken care of –with lunches for Lindbergh Adult School, Manteca Day, and Community School students being prepared on site and transported when the time is right.

And then there’s the small task of making sure that you’ve got not only enough food to serve more than 800 meals to students, but to serve things that they’re actually going to eat.

This week’s menu items included things like a teriyaki chicken bowl and a barbecue chicken pizza that sold out almost instantly when it was made available earlier this week.

Special Manteca High-only items like homemade chile verde burritos – with meat marinated in a jalapeno green sauce before it’s served up on wheat tortillas – are also big hits when they’re available for the student body.

“Just like at every school it’s going to be pizza that’s the most popular item, but we’ve got a few things on the menu here that students really enjoy,” Fennelly said. “The chicken sandwich that we offer is a big hit with the students.”

Students who manage to keep their grades up and remain eligible for off campus privileges are privy to a plethora of off-campus offerings with Pizza Guys, the Mangy Moose Café, and Taco Bell within walking distance.

But for the rest of the student body, three different points of sale help cater to the masses that flood the area around the cafeteria and give students their choice of where they want to spend their half-hour lunch break – whether it’s relaxing near the massive buffalo sculpture or getting situated in a shady spot with a group of friends.

“It’s really kind of a social place for students to enjoy their lunch,” Fennelly said. “We prepare all morning for the rush, and once it hits it seems like it’s over in just seconds.”