Why Did College Student Cross Road? To Work in Poultry Plant

By Virginia Breen

Jun 12, 2009 11:42am

  ABC News On Campus reporter Kirby Kristen blogs: The conventional daily uniform of summer consists of a swimsuit, shorts, sunglasses and flip-flops, but not for Texas State University student Elvira Moreno.  “I go into work around 5:45 in the morning and get done around five in the evening,” said Moreno, a 20-year-old education major. “I wear a long lab coat, hair net, gloves and rain boots.” Moreno works as a poultry quality-assurance manager for Holmes Foods in Nixon, Texas.  She spends all day inside a 40-degree room that smells of chlorine. There she is in charge of the chicken destined for Popeyes, the fast food chain.  The chicken must go through different stations before it is approved for packaging.  Only after Moreno has verified that the chicken is a certain temperature and has passed the health code qualifications, is it shipped. “I’m just grateful I’m not the one out there slaughtering the chickens,” Moreno said. “That’s where I thought I was going to be when I signed up for this job.” According to Greg Hill, assistant director for career planning at Texas State University, many students this summer are happy to have any type of employment. With May unemployment at a quarter-century high of 9.4 percent, according to the Labor Department, students can’t afford to be picky about their job options.  “We’ve had people come in and say, ‘We don’t care what job we get, we just want a job,” Hill said. Moreno admitted her employment isn’t typical for a student, but said she makes at least $300 a week, considerably more than she did at her former job managing a jewelry boutique. “I’ll be working here until August,” Moreno said. “I’ve signed a lease for an apartment next year, so I’m saving for rent.” Another motivating factor is the opportunity to be with her boyfriend, Omar Garcia. Garcia, also from Nixon, is working at Holmes Foods this summer as well. He is saving the money he earns as a welder to contribute towards half of rent for the apartment they will share next year. “The best part of the day is when we get to see each other during our two, 30-minute breaks,” Moreno said. Although Moreno and Garcia have no plans for a future with poultry, their employment at Holmes Foods allows them to fulfill their current goals of making money while being together. Hill, however, advises students “to think in terms of finding a connection between a summer job and what they ultimately want to do.” Moreno is an education major and hopes to be a kindergarten teacher after she graduates, but right now she is more focused on the present. In addition to spending time with Garcia she has learned a lot about quality control and food preparation. “I like that I get to see what I’m eating and how it’s taken care of before it gets to me,” Moreno said. “Now I worry about where the food I eat is coming from.” Next fall, Moreno and Garcia may share a plate of Popeyes fried chicken in their apartment. No doubt they’ll wonder if their dinner has come to them by way of Holmes Foods in Nixon, Texas.

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