Grading School Cafeterias

When you and your family go out to eat, you notice the health department reports posted near or on the door. But there are eating places that serve thousands of meals a week that don’t post the grades on the front door, your school.

Inside McCracken County High School you witness a well-oiled machine during lunch service. Cafeteria Manager Patty Thompson and her co-workers are passionate about the role they play in the lives of students.

“We’re doing something good, we’re keeping these kids fed,” said Thompson.

They make sure the fries are fresh, the soup is hot, and the chicken wings are ready for dipping. Food Service Director Sara Hedges says the most important part of prepping and serving is meeting code and keeping areas clean.

“We are graded just as closely, if not closer, than a restaurant they would go out to eat here in town. It’s pretty much the same inspection and safety, as far as food is concerned, is our top priority,” said Hedges.

Checking temperatures of coolers, freezers, and warmers is a must.

“They’re looking at food preparation to make sure we’re all wearing gloves. We’re all wearing hairnets. We all have non-skid shoes,” said Hedges.

The health department used the findings to select a grade and post it outside the cafeteria door.

“Because that inspection depicts how the kitchen is safe and sanitary from a food service standpoint. So that’s the reason it’s not posted necessarily on the front of the school,” said Hedges.

The grade is posted, you just have to go to the cafeteria to see it. 

In Kentucky, health departments inspect schools twice a year on dozens of categories related to food safety. Critical areas include food temperature, hygienic practices, and insect or rodent problems.

The check-ups, and passing grades, are necessary if the schools want to continue to receive financial support at the federal level.

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