It was a cold, stormy Wednesday morning at Bainbridge High School during second period when I walked down to the lunch room to see if I could talk to Brian Parker–the food service manager at BHS– about this article I am writing for Food Safety News.
I opened the big door of the commons (lunch room) and smelled the aroma I waited for –the cookies. The cookies at BHS are to die for; they’re soft and mushy, and a highlight of my day when I go to the snack line to get one, especially coming from the middle school two years ago where you could roll up the cheese from the pizza and make a bouncy ball out of. But that is another story.
As I walked down the stairs, I noticed how big and pretty the commons is when it isn’t filled with massive amounts of 9th-12th graders throwing carrots at freshman girls.
I turned the corner to talk to Brian and the lunch ladies about the food they serve to my fellow classmates and me. I started by introducing myself and asked him a few questions while he prepared the pasta for the next day’s lasagna. Brian, hard at work, began by telling me where he orders the food.
He receives all of the dairy products–such as milk, ice cream, cheese–from a company in the Northwest called “Puget Sound Dairy.” The school generally gets most of the rest of its food from the FSA, Food Service of America, with deliveries twice a week, in large quantities of different varieties of food.
Some products also from the government, but a great deal of food has been ceased because of budget cuts in the district. The lunch program oddly also got $15,000 from the Department of Defense to buy products from FSA, but all that got cut out in the last few years because of the decline in the economy.
Mr. Parker mentioned how First Lady Michelle Obama has started a campaign for healthy school lunches, which is good, but not so good at the same time, because the lunch prices will go up since organic food costs are higher than the non-organic they serve us now. This leads to the problem of those who cannot afford the regular lunch prices.
The price now for a lunch tray with nachos, pasta, pizza, chicken burgers, and many other choices is $3.25. And the discounted price for those who cannot afford it is $2.85. Nonetheless, with this new campaign for more healthy choices in our lunch program, the reduced rate will be only 4-5 cents less, which doesn’t do much to encourage the healthier choices.
When I asked Mr. Parker how he keeps the lunchroom and kitchen at BHS clean and safe, he immediately showed me the flawless health inspection reports they have received over the last four years. This is something to be very proud of for all the lunch ladies and staff at Bainbridge. Brian told me that the inspectors come twice a year and spend about an hour to an hour and a half looking at the facilities and checking all the temperatures of the foods.
In addition, all of the six ladies and Brian go through multiple food safety training classes learning about foodborne illness and how to go about cooking the food to make sure it is up to regulation standards. They do not reheat any food they have stored to serve, and all this takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
The only time he has experienced anything close to food safety trouble at the school was a few years ago when he learned there might be a problem with Non Fat Dry Milk so he threw it out. Brian said he wasn’t positive it was the milk that was being recalled, but he wanted to be on the safe side.
All in all, I got a huge amount out of talking with Brian Parker and the six lunch ladies at Bainbridge High School. And full confidence that the food we eat at school is good and also up to standards–safety wise.