School cafeterias and kitchens might have a negative reputation in film and TV, but a majority of Bend-La Pine Schools’ lunchrooms had zero violations in inspections this year, and the few violations present were mostly minor.

Garra Schluter, who oversees the district’s kitchens and lunchrooms, said Bend-La Pine’s almost-­spotless inspection reports from Deschutes County Environmental Health weren’t a surprise.

“We take great pride in having a very safe environment,” she said. “We have extensive programs to keep our kitchens safe and clean and organized. When things do come up, we definitely address them as soon as they’re brought to our attention.”

Since July, 33 Bend-La Pine facilities and schools have been inspected, according to Deschutes County documents. Only 12 of those inspections revealed any violations, many of which were immediately corrected during the inspection. For example, at Cascade Middle School, an inspector noticed a tub of whipped cream that expired a few weeks prior, and the food was immediately thrown out, according to the inspection report. At Ensworth Elementary School, some fruit boxes blocked a hand-washing station, so the boxes were immediately removed.

Arguably the nastiest violation reported was at Bend High in early July, where the ice machine’s interior flap accumulated “pink slime” — a type of mold that can grow in a wet environment. Schluter said after the inspection, staffers were instructed to clean the school’s ice machine at more frequent intervals.

Some schools received equipment-related violations, such as missing thermometers in refrigerators at Highland Elementary or a broken sneeze guard on the salad bar for Realms and Skyline high schools’ joint eating space. In both situations, parts were ordered and placed, Schluter said.

“When we get a violation that needs to be addressed, we address it immediately,” she said. “We don’t take it lightly. It’s super important to us.”

Deschutes County inspector Jeff Freund said Bend-La Pine schools and most other schools in the county typically do an “excellent job” in keeping lunchrooms and kitchens up to code.

“There are very, very few violations because schools typically do what they’re supposed to,” he said. “I attribute that to the schools and the staff really care about what they actually do.”

The majority of kitchen staff in Bend-La Pine is ServSafe certified, Schluter said, meaning those employees take an extra eight-hour course on top of the simple food handler’s card course required of all staff. The ServSafe lessons go more in-depth into preventing foodborne illnesses and other tips.

According to Schluter, Bend-La Pine serves about 17,000 meals each day, and the district tries to keep the ingredients as local as possible by either making food from scratch at its large Bend High kitchen or buying produce from local farmers.

“Our ultimate goal is to feed the future for success with the healthiest, most nutritious food, and it being as safe as possible,” she said. “We pride ourselves in being the best place in town to come eat.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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