I-TEAM: Are your kids' schools making the grade when it comes to food inspection scores?

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Wednesday, August 07, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

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AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – We trust our kids’ schools with plenty, and health is right up there with safety when it comes to things we worry about.

So our I-Team put local schools to the test to see if lunchrooms are making the grade.

So, we started speaking with the ultimate critics: students. That’s where Zynayza Barr comes in.

Barr works hard to make good grades at Denmark Olar Elementary. But when we asked if she would give her cafeteria a good grade, she had other thoughts.

“I usually drink whatever is on my plate, and then that's usually it,” Barr said.

We showed Barr's mom a health inspection report we found from last year for her daughter's lunch room: a 'C' rating -- one of the worst we found in the state.

The report detailed the presence of rodent droppings on the dry storage area and dead roaches on the shelving. It also spoke of moldy food in the refrigerator.

“Obviously, they’re not keeping up to date with the stuff they have in their kitchen,” Barr said.

The list went on, too: excessive grime on can openers, fire ant spray stored above food and foil, excessive grease build-up, a broken plumbing line, and more.

Out of every school in South Carolina, we found only three schools scored a C and two of those are in our area: Denmark Olar Elementary and Denmark Olar Middle.

We contacted the Department of Education to see what's being done to make sure this doesn't happen again.
“There were significant issues with the cafeteria at this school that we, along with DHEC, were involved in cleaning up (both physically and operationally),” a statement said. “After this occurred, the two Bamberg districts began sharing a food service director.”

But parents say they were never notified.

But it's not all bad news. Overall, our counties aced the test. Out of our three largest counties, in the last two school years, Richmond County only had two schools that did not make an A. Aiken County had two B grades -- both in North Augusta schools. Columbia County didn't have anything lower than an A. In fact, they only had two schools that didn't make a perfect score.

So what goes into getting that elusive 100?

“Well, it’s not all about cleaning,” said Angela Sharp, the nutrition manager for Evans Middle School where they serve hundreds of meals daily.

“We have to daily come in and check temperatures on our dry stock, our refrigerators, our freezers.”

Besides the obvious glaring items on a food safety report, we asked her what parents should pay special attention to.

“I think the temperatures are the most important,” Sharp said. Because, like I said, the spreading of bacterias, the spreading of illness.”

As for inspections, unlike restaurants, your child's school gets a surprise visit twice a year -- which Sharp says is another layer of assurance for mom and dad.

“Working with children, especially in our elementary schools, we are high risk and you really want to watch out for those babies,” Sharp said. “You want to keep them safe.”

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