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A fond farewell for a tuckshop legend

It’s the end of an era at Ipswich Girls Grammar School, with long time convenor, Lorie Robinson, hanging up the apron one last time, after 27 years of service.

It all began with the desire for a career change after working as a teacher in country NSW for close to a decade. Lorie took on the Catering Manager role at Ipswich Girls Grammar School in December 1995 and the rest, as they say, is history.

With a background in food and nutrition, the job was a perfect fit for Lorie as she loved working in a school environment (who doesn’t love school holidays?) and had a strong passion for food.

While boarder numbers were strong when she initially started out, they eventually started to fall, so Lorie had to think fast to keep her staff employed. Enter the school tuckshop.

After taking over the running of the tuckshop, which was previously managed by the P&F, Lorie had to navigate an array of challenges while juggling boarders and students. She spent the next 6 months getting things in running order and once established, knew she had found her “forever job”.

The role suited her to a tee. Lorie had two very busy girls so finding a job that she could work around them was essential. The commute from home was short and she got to work with some fabulous people and put her experience and passion for food to good use.

In 2003, and with a wealth of tuckshop experience already under her belt, Lorie joined the QAST Management Committee and described it as one of the best things she has done.

“The friendships I have forged, not to mention, being at the grass roots of Smart Choices; it was a great time to be involved with the organisation. I have worked with so many awesome people over my time with QAST,” Lorie reflected.

Over the years, Lorie saw almost every possible change in school foodservice.

“From the school having soft drink machines on campus, to the introduction of the Smart Choices policy, and then to Covid; it all happened!  

“Online ordering and EFTPOS also completely changed the way we operated and on reflection, how did we ever function without it!

“I also think that parents and staff are way more dependent on the tuckshop to offer tasty, healthy choices in the school environment.

“It’s also gotten busier. We used to think having 200 orders on a Friday was huge. Last year we had many Fridays with over 400 orders, plus the other days of the week increased in sales. I think Covid had a big effect on all that.”

The volunteer landscape has also changed a great deal. When Lorie took over the tuckshop, she had at least three volunteers on roster every day. In 2022 she had seven volunteers in total, two of them being retirees coming back to help.

“I think so many parents are out in the workforce, which is a big change from “the old days”.  That being said, most of our volunteers over the years were working parents who just made the time,” Lorie said.

“I also believe that some people don’t think we needed volunteers because we had paid staff. If only they knew how much appreciated an extra pair of hands can be.”

In terms of challenges, staffing was the biggest one. Lorie previously had no trouble finding people to work, but towards the end of her career, it felt near impossible, with term-only hours, early starts and some weekend work proving the greatest deterrents.

“Covid was another huge challenge, especially in the early days when we didn’t know what was happening,” Lorie explained.

“We had around 30 boarders who couldn’t leave the country, plus we had quite a few children of essential workers coming to school, so we had to feed everyone.

“It was scary. But it was also one of my proudest moments because I was able to keep all my staff employed during that time.”

Getting to the heart and soul of the tuckshop – the food – Lorie has always maintained that home-made is best…and the kids loved it!

“Our “Chicken Burger Tuesday” is infamous around the school corridors. In the school yearbook, seniors are asked what they will miss most about the school and at least two thirds of them mention Chicken Burger Tuesday. It cracks me up,” Lorie reflected.

“Having the facilities to do so, we prepared most of our food in house. We used to even make our own sausage rolls and back in the day were famous for our homemade chicken pasties.

“Oh, and I’m also famous for my savoury mince which the boarders used to have every other Wednesday for breakfast. And my corn chowder; one of the boarders told me it was the best thing she ever had in her life. It is pretty good, I can’t lie.”

Over the years, the biggest highlights for Lorie included having her own daughters attend Ipswich Girls Grammar School, getting to know and become friends with many of the teaching staff, and working with some truly amazing people.

And when it comes to advice for people new to managing tuckshops, Lorie sums it up perfectly.

“Work hard and never take yourself too seriously. Appreciate your staff and volunteers for whatever they bring to the workplace. Be kind and treat people the way you would like to be treated. And, if you aren’t already, become a member of QAST,” she said.

The QAST team was proud to join Lorie, her family, friends and colleagues at a special farewell function in late 2022 and it was an honour to see the outpouring of love and affection the school community has for her.

Well done Lorie on an amazing career that we know has given you many cherished memories

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