Food safety behind the lunch line

By: Amy Lipman Email
By: Amy Lipman Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. 8,000 children fill up lunch lines at District 51 schools every day, but extra work goes on behind the scenes, so that all children get from their lunches is a full stomach.

"A lot of prep goes on here. Get to the line and it looks easy, but it's all the behind the work," said Tamalynn Kirby, kitchen manager for Dual Immersion Academy.

District 51 school cafeterias have unannounced safety inspections and any violations are posted for the public to view, just like any other restaurant.

"We usually get a call from the office saying you have a visitor and that's how we know they're here," Kirby said. "They take temps of our food and make sure it's where it should be. They look at cleanliness. Make sure your chemicals are not stored with the food."

Kitchen staffs are not only responsible for making sure meals fit nutritional guidelines, but also that they're served and stored at the proper temperature.

"Food can get bacteria growing if it's not held at the right temperature," Kirby said. "Temps are done when we prep serve and when we're done so at least three times a day."

Even though staff members wear gloves, hand washing is still critical to prevent the spread of illness, Kirby said.

Under the National School Lunch program, schools are expected to have inspections from a local or state agency up to two times a year.

District 51 schools are in compliance with this requirement.

22 of 38 District 51 schools on the Mesa County Health Department's website did have violations this past year. Common violations include improper hand washing, food temperature or chemical balance in cleaning supplies.

"The percentage of incidents that we have in our schools is very low," said Dan Sharp, director of nutrition services for District 51. "Occasionally, we're all human, there will be mistakes and sometimes that happens."

Mesa County Health Department inspectors identify District 51 schools as "low-risk," saying the inspections are usually straightforward and uneventful.

"The schools are really great to work with, they're really cooperative," said Veronica Daehn Harvey, for the Mesa County Health Department. "We hardly ever see anything alarming. In fact, we may never see anything alarming."

If you'd like to see the latest inspection for your local school, go to the following link and type in the school's name: http://health.mesacounty.us/environment/foodsafety/restinsp.aspx


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