School kitchens score high on health, safety

Washougal school inspections receive 'Double Gold' ratings

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From left, Sandi Boehm, Trudi Jones, Mark Jasper, Jacob Casteel and Sandy Bell pose for a photo in the Gause Elementary School lunchroom. It is one of three Washougal schools given "Double Gold" ratings in an audit by the National Safety Foundation.

“This represents a lot of work and a lot of practice doing the right things every day.”

— Mark Jasper

Although they may not always be excited about the recent nutrition changes, Washougal students can be assured it is prepared to the highest health and safety standards.

In early January, Jemtegaard Middle School, Gause Elementary and Washougal High School kitchens scored high on an audit by the National Safety Foundation. The organization is a third party company hired for independent inspections of the health and food safety of kitchens managed by Sodexo for the Washougal School District. Since it is an independent, third-party inspection, there is not a report for the public to access, noted Rene Carroll, district spokeswoman.

No other schools in Washougal were audited this year.

The staff and kitchens were scored in the areas of food and health and safety. Each school earned the highest “Double Gold” ratings, which is 100 percent in both categories.

“This represents a lot of work and a lot of practice doing the right things every day,” said Mark Jasper, Sodexo nutrition services director. “We have a lot of pride in our staff.”

"This represents a lot of work and a lot of practice doing the right things every day."

-- Mark Jasper

The NSF scores are based on a number of areas of examination. Evaluators look at follow-up and follow-through if there was an item that needed to be fixed from a previous inspection.

They evaluate staff compliance with safe food handling and check that mandatory safety equipment is in place.

Additionally, they review safety training and whether staff has a good understanding of safety practices.

“We work very hard and we are proud of our rating,” said Sharon House, WHS kitchen staff employee. “I have been doing this for 17 years and it is about making sure everything gets done and done right. We make sure checklists are followed.”

In addition to ensuring that safety measures are in place, Sodexo is also working to follow the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to make Washougal school lunches healthier.

“The law asked for changes in broad areas and they are being incrementally implemented,” Jasper explained.

Changes included transitioning to menu items with more whole grains, lower sodium levels and more diversity in the fruits and vegetable offerings.

“One change is that students are required to take a half-cup serving of fruit or vegetable with each meal,” Jasper said. “We want them to fill up on those items rather than the entree. It was a little shocking to the students at first, but they are coming around.”