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ESP Careers: Food Services

One Education Workforce Serving The Whole Student!

About Us and Our Work

  • 43% of us work in central food facilities, and 52% work in school buildings.
  • 34% of us have intervened to stop bullying behavior in school, and 20% have intervened to stop school violence such as harassing, intimidating, or threatening others.
  • 64% of us work full time.
  • 98% of us are female.
  • 81% are married.
  • Our average age is 52.
  • 60% of us had to meet specific job requirements, 29% of us had to have special certificates, and 37% needed special training. 39% of us must pass examinations or coursework on a regular basis.
  • On average, we have been NEA ESP members for 9 years.

We are committed: 11 years is the average we have been working in our field. 90% of us plan to stay in the ESP field, and 74% plan to stay in our current jobs until retirement.

We are many: Over 280,000 food services ESPs work in the nation's K-12 public schools. We're the fourth largest of the nation's K-12 ESP job groups, making up 12.9% of the U.S. K-12 ESP work force.

Our Workplace Conditions and Issues

well-nourished kidsWe have job titles that are not clearly differentiated, which makes it difficult to advance from one food service job to another. 21% of us do not have a job description at all.

Among those of us who do have a job description, 36% of us have no input into updating or changing our job descriptions.

We are worried about privatization: 24% of our members report that food service work is being contracted out in their districts.

Our first responsibility is to be sure that we serve safe and nutritious food to the students and staff. Food preparation involves the ever-present risk of burns, cuts, falls, and similar mishaps.

We are pleased with the personal fulfillment we get from our work and the freedom we have to decide how to do our jobs. We want more access to training and professional development opportunities so we can increase our chances for advancement. We'd like better wages and job benefits, such as health insurance and pensions.

How We Help Make Public Schools Great For Every Student

We ensure students have access to safe and nutritious meals. We provide basic components of student success - nutrition - which influences students' behavior, energy levels, thinking, physical health, and overall wellbeing.

We properly handle food, adapt receipes for students with special dietary needs, meet recommended dietary guidelines and help students develop lifelong healthy eating habits.

Food Services ESPs: Who We Are

  • Cooks and Food Preparation Workers
  • Cashiers, Dietitians, and Dietary Technicians
  • Food Service Workers
  • Nonmanagerial Supervisors


Visit the ESP Publications page and download a copy of the Who We Are brochure to learn more about ESP Careers!

How We Advocate For Students