The school cafeteria feeds thousands of students in Columbia every weekday.
It’s one of the few places parents have control over what their kids eat, and the cleanliness of where they are eating.
The Columbia/Boone County Public Health Department inspects every Boone County school’s cafeteria once a semester.
“It’s the same inspection that we would do at any food facility, so they (school cafeterias) are under the requirements of the same food code that any restaurant in downtown Columbia are under,” health department Assistant Director Scott Clardy said. “We use the exact same inspection form.”
After digging through hundreds of inspections, ABC 17 News crews found which schools had the most violations in the last five years.
The following graph is a count of all critical violations each school listed received from 2014-2019. If the school is not listed, it didn not receive any critical violations in the past 5 years.
In the inspection reports, public schools in Boone County had fewer critical violations than private schools.
Since 2014, Christian Fellowship School received 14 critical violations from the health department, the highest number of critical vioaltions given to any school in Boone County. The school’s violations were for no soap at handwashing sinks and food which was not in the correct temperature range.
Five private schools in Columbia were issued 23 critical violations inthe past five years. CPS was given 38 critical violations during inspections, but that district has at least 30 schools inspected.
Not one CPS school racked up as many violations as CFS.
Christian Fellowship contracts with Fresh Ideas to provide their student lunches. “Fresh Ideas does daily cleaning and disinfecting, but the inspections are those required by the health department,” CFS Principal’s Assistant Kim Thoma first told ABC 17 News.
Fresh Ideas Chief Innovation and Experience Officer Kris Lensmeyer said their team takes sanitation and safety very seriously and their company does a surprise 10-page inspection at its facilities once a month.
CPS Nutrition Services Director Laina Fullum said the district has an internal inspection policy under which every school’s cafeteria is inspected once a month, four times more than CFS inspects its cafeteria.
“We have to keep our children safe, it’s what we value most,” Fullum said.
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The CPS buildings with the most violations were Lange Middle School and Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary, with five critical violations each. Those violations included dented cans, an unlabeled spray bottle, lettuce without a date and an employee drink not in the right area.
Fullum said Lange was one of the most high-production kitchens out of all schools in CPS’ district.
“We don’t want a foodborne illness outbreak because first of all, that takes kids out of school, we want them in school,” Fullum said. “It also would be hard to recover from.”
Fullum said she believes CPS’ policy is more strict than the city’s.
Fullum said she has a crew that goes to CPS schools and “review a checklist of sanitation standards with each of their kitchens about once a month, unless there’s an issue, then they go back more often.”
About 15 percent of schools inspected in Boone County received a critical violation in the last five years.