TAMPA - In a special Dirty Dining I-Team Investigation, we looked through dozens of food safety inspection reports from counties all over Central Florida. Hillsborough County, the largest school district in the area had more unsatisfactory health inspections than any other district with 17 schools failing at least one food inspection report.
Violations range from simply not paying their health permit fee to more serious offenses like a stop sale on food at dangerous temperatures, no hot water and even roaches and ants in the kitchen.
"Ideally, 100% of our schools would be perfect but we're human beings, we know that. We just have to address issues as they come up," said Linda Cobbe, the Hillsborough County School District's spokesperson.
Ironically, two of the worst offenders in Hillsborough County include two culinary arts schools, where they teach food safety.
George M. Steinbrenner High Culinary Arts on West Lutz Lake Fern Road in Tampa received three unsatisfactory scores over the last two years, compared to Steinbrenner's main cafeteria which passed every inspection over that same period.
On January 23, 2012 Steinbrenner's Culinary School failed from food not date marked or labeled, chemicals stored with food, unsanitary equipment and food stored on the floor.
"We bake cookies most of the time which we sell in bags and those are distributed," said Rachel Kohl, a culinary student.
But Rachel attends another culinary school in Hillsborough County with unsatisfactory inspection scores.
Rachel attends King High School's Culinary Arts Facility located inside King High on North 56th Street in Tampa. While the main cafeteria passed it's inspections, the Culinary Arts kitchen received two unsatisfactory grades.
"Mostly, we do banquets for the teachers, where they can come in and we serve them or different programs we'll serve them meals. So we do cook a lot for the school," Rachel added.
During two visits in May of last year, the Hillsborough County Health Department discovered evidence of roaches in the kitchen, food not labeled or date marked, dirty floors and other critical issues.
King High Student Rachel thinks instructors could be overwhelmed
Rachel admits her instructor focuses on sanitation issues but might be overwhelmed.
"There's only one teacher and so many kids so it's probably hard to make sure everyone is doing what they're suppose to," Rachel responded.
But some parents we spoke to believe that's no excuse.
"I would expect the same standards to be in the student's cafeteria as the culinary arts cafeteria," said Susan Spring, whose daughter attends King High.
It wasn't only public schools not passing with food inspectors. Some private schools didn't make the grade either.
Polk County had four schools with unsatisfactory scores in the last year and two private schools were the worst offenders on that list.
At Resurrection Catholic School ( read their response to our story
) on Old 37 Highway in Lakeland parents spend anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 per year per child. But they may not know they're paying for unsatisfactory conditions in the kitchen.
"Ideally, 100% of our schools would be perfect but we're human beings, we know that. We just have to address issues as they come up."
-- Linda Cobbe, Hillsborough County School District
The Polk County Health Department issued an unsatisfactory grade to the school in January after a live roach was seen crawling in the kitchen and there was no hot water in the restrooms.
The other private Polk school inspectors didn't pass? St. Anthony's Catholic Church and School and Parish on Marcum Road in Lakeland ( read their response to our story
). It received two unsatisfactory grades in December and January for employees not monitoring food temperatures, and issues with hand washing and the use of sanitizers.
But students and parents we spoke to say all kitchens in all schools should be clean and safe for all kids.
"I hope they take the proper steps to get that taken care of because the kids do eat that food and it's unacceptable," said Algalana Douglas, a woman who works at the school.
"I hope they fix that because it's not sanitary, it's not good for people's health," said Michelle Spring, a freshman at King High School, "and someone can get sick."
Note: You can search the health inspections for any school in Hillsborough County through the department’s website https://s1.ebridge-solutions.com/ebridge/3.0/default.aspx
Directions: The ‘user name’ and ‘password’ are ‘publicuser’. The ‘file cabinet’ is HCHD. Click on ‘retrieve’ and type in the name of the school in the ‘index search.’
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