Pomeroy’s dining hall is a second home for Regina Gallardo ’23, and it is not because of the ice cream, scrambled tofu or creatively-made eggs. When Gallardo was visiting the College for Spring Open Campus, she ate at Pomeroy and heard some dining hall workers conversing in Spanish. Gallardo is from Mexico City and a sense of comfort washed over her when she heard her mother tongue. She approached one of the workers to make conversation and described him as “very sweet” and continues to talk to him daily.
“You start feeling at home when you start meeting [dining hall workers], and I feel like they’re doing such a good job … by keeping you well-fed, but also, [they tell me], ‘Hey, there’s this Mexican event happening later if you want to go,” said Gallardo. “Just building community, I feel like, is very important … It makes you feel at home. It makes you feel less sad that you’re not with your family.”
Although Gallardo described Pomeroy as unique due to its “cozy” size, she has found friendly workers to converse with in all dining halls, no matter how large the halls are.
Pomeroy dining hall workers, Katie and Marion, reiterated how much they care about Wellesley students and how approachable they are. While on their way out of the kitchen to sit down and talk with me, Marion even stopped at a table of students to exchange greetings and to ask them about their day. The students were left with beaming smiles. “You can depend on these workers in the dining services,” said Marion. “We are like a second mom.”
Marion even engages with students outside of the kitchen. Sometimes she stands near the entrance of Pomeroy Hall in the evening and upon seeing nicely-dressed students leaving the building, urges them to be careful while going out.
Being the only kosher dining hall on campus, Pomeroy employees have unique opportunities to forge relationships with certain students. For example, Katie sets aside a plate of food for a kosher student if she knows that the student has a class on the other side of campus and will not be able to make it to Pomeroy in time.
Despite the very important role the dining hall staff play in students’ lives, workers have been facing numerous difficulties such as the proposed 15 percent pay cut for new employees, reductions in overtime pay and lower wages for union members who take on leadership roles. Although the College has reached an agreement with the service workers union, the effects of these proposed changes have created uncertainty. Katie said, “We have a lot of issues too, with everything going on right now. Not everybody is really happy in the kitchen … We don’t get recognized. Sometimes there’s very long hours. Sometimes there’s a lot of work on top of you, and you know, we get through it. Administration just thinks that we’re high paid, but we do a lot in the background, not ever seen.”
Marion has been working at the College for 30 years, so she has seen all of the changes that have occurred in dining hall operations. She urged the College to “do better” with dining hall workers because “if we don’t get here in the morning, [students] can’t eat.” She believes that administration would have a better appreciation for kitchen workers if they regularly frequented the dining halls, which is why Marion continues to invite Wellesley College President Paula Johnson to sit down for a meal at Pomeroy. Her invitation has not yet been accepted.
“The dining hall workers are a united nation,” said Marion. “We come from every corner of the globe … Everybody that works in the dining services is an immigrant. Very hard-working people, but we don’t get any credit for it.”
Despite the hardships they face, Katie and Marion emphasized that interacting with students is often the highlight of their day. They only encourage new students to overcome their shyness and make conversation with the dining hall workers, as they are excited to get to know the new class of 2023.
Marion’s last words before heading back to the kitchen? “In case you get lonely, you can look for me.”