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Dirty Dining: Critical violations found inside local school cafeterias

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 16, 2015) – Our kids spend a lot of time eating in school cafeterias, so FOX59 took Dirty Dining into schools to see what they’re cooking up.

The lunch line is iconic, but it’s a place that is as mocked as any other place we eat: whether it be in movies or TV shows.

The reality, though, is that most kids eat a school lunch almost every day.

In Wayne Township Schools, Child Nutrition Director Sara Gasiorowski and her team serve up 11,600 breakfasts and 12,800 lunches each day alone.

“You’re serving customers. Whether it’s a customer in a restaurant or a guest here in the school, they’re still our customers,” Gasiorowski said.

It goes deeper than that, though. Schools are subject to the same inspections as any other food establishment, generating health inspection reports just like your favorite restaurants.

FOX59 dug into the most recent health reports for every school in Marion County, assigning each a letter grade that corresponds to our own generated grading scale.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • A = Clean report, no violations
  • A- = 1 non-critical violation (not likely to make kids sick)
  • B = 1 critical violation
  • C = 2 critical violations
  • D = 2 critical violations and 3+ non-critical violations
  • F = 3+ critical violations

The results were not always appetizing.

Click here to find out what grade your child's school received.

Take Northview Middle School in Washington Township, where an inspector “observed several live roaches throughout kitchen area, employee restroom and dry storage room.” On our scale, Northview received an F grade.

The district would not allow us inside the school to see changes for ourselves. It sent a statement instead.

“MSDWT takes all Board of Health inspections very seriously and when violations are noted we act immediately to resolve them.  The staff at Northview takes great pride in the cleanliness of their kitchen, the quality of their food and the safety of the students they serve.  At Northview over 1,000 healthy breakfasts and lunches are served each day.

The Marion County Board of Health arrived at Northview on Friday, September 12, 2014. After their thorough inspection some violations were cited that required a recheck by the Board of Health.

The Board of Health returned on Monday, September 15, 2014 to determine whether the pest problem only, was corrected. This inspection report indicated that the pest problem was corrected in all 3 areas,” district spokesperson Ellen Rogers said.

Next up was the Indianapolis Math and Science Academy, or IMSA, West campus. The charter school encountered a big problem in their last inspection and also received an F score on our scale.

The school had no hot water, critical for sanitation. An inspector even made them “provide cold sack lunches at IMSA North and deliver to this school until the hot water is restored.”

“When it comes to the health and safety of our students, nothing is more important. The moment we learned of these issues, we took immediate action to address them, and we swiftly and successfully corrected them. We take our role as educators very seriously, and we remain committed to delivering the highest quality of educational experience to our students,” an IMSA West statement read.

A score on our scale didn't always tell the full story, though.

Emmerich Manual High School, just south of downtown, received a B on our grading system. However, an inspector told the school to “remove the rodent droppings in the mop sink room and by … cabinets in the kitchen.” That inspector even found a “dead mouse on (a) glue board.”

Charter Schools USA, the company that runs the turnaround school, also sent FOX 59 a statement.

“As part of our dedication to creating an outstanding academic environment to our schools, we are also deeply committed to maintaining a clean and safe area for food preparation. Health inspections have in the past been handled directly with the food service provider, however, to assure timely and guaranteed compliance, we have recently changed our processes so that the school principal also receives any health inspection notices and can act on them immediately. We have reviewed all violations and have corrected any items that were out of compliance,” Teresa Brown, Regional Director of Indiana for Charter Schools USA, said.

If you’re sensing a theme, you’re right. None of the schools we wanted to talk to about concerning reports let us inside.

Wayne Township was the only district to allow us in and all of its schools passed. For that, the district gets our Dine 59 award.

“We look at them as if they were our own children and what would we expect if it were our own child,” Gasiorowski said.

As for your kids, you should know that schools are checked out twice a year and will all get a spring semester check up in the coming months. If you wonder what’s being dished out onto your child’s plate, check in with your school or click here for a full list of Marion County schools or to look up a report in another county.