Tireless Tanya and the little shop of 180,000 school lunches

A stalwart canteen staffer at the Boronia Park Public School is celebrating 15 years of service.

Tanya Ikonomou and her team at Boronia Park have prepared around one hundred and eighty thousand lunches in her 15 years of service as well as prepared, served and cooked countless meals for special school events.

“We would make around two hundred lunches a day and at around 300 days a year, including some weekends, for 15 years that really is quite a staggering figure when you think about it,” Tanya said.

“Every lunch is important to us and we put a lot of love and care into everything we prepare and we do sandwiches, salads and sushi, which is hugely popular.”

The Ikonomou family is closely involved with the school where Tanya was a student in the mid 1960s and where her daughters Tara and Carlie went to school.

“My husband Tony does the after school coaching and we can’t praise this school highly enough, ” she said.

“There are around 500 children who come to school here, I know most of their names and they are all lovely children.

“The teachers and the staff here are fabulous and the parents and volunteers are the backbone of the school community.”

Special occasions require a special effort.

“We do an Italian Day, a Greek Day, a Lebanese Day and an Asian Day,” she said.

“On Shrove Tuesday we make 430 pancakes and we have a Milkshake Day where we make more than 250 milkshakes in three flavours.

“We bring in our crack team of volunteers for that day and we thank everyone with a sausage sizzle at the end of each term.

“Our special days really are special.”

A strong focus of canteen life is on healthy food and special meals are created for students with special diets.

“Every Monday we pick fresh vegetables from our school garden.”

“Even children who normally don’t like vegetables want to try them because they are made from vegetables they’ve grown themselves.

“We also prepare lunches for children with special diets that include gluten free lunches and foods for students with nut and other allergies.

“Once a year we spoil the students with a fish and chips day, too.”

With so much to do, Tanya starts he day in the canteen at 8.45am and finishes at 2.30pm.

Surprisingly, her biggest challenge is not preparing the lunches but keeping them safe.

“The challenge is keeping Ibis birds out of the children’s lunch packs because these creatures have learned how to open them and steal the food.”

After 15 years of dedicated service – rain, hail and shine – Tanya and her team have finally been rewarded with a new custom designed kitchen.

It was installed last week by Nick Sakoulas, a neighbour from On The Level Carpentry and Joinery.

He told The Weekly Times it was a pleasure to make Tanya’s dream come true.

“She has put in so much time and effort into her job with all the multi-tasking it involves,” he said.

“Every child knows her name and it is about time, after so many years, she deserves this new kitchen.”

Long serving canteen staffer at the Boronia Park Public School Tanya Ikonomou prepares a lunch in the new school kitchen, recently installed by admirer Nick Sakoulas. TWT on-the-spot PHOTO