From rats and roaches to old food that health inspectors said could make you sick, every week our Restaurant Report Card gives you important information to help you decide where to take your family to eat. But all across our area, there are kitchens serving food to your kids every day, whether they like it or not.
KPRC Local 2 consumer investigator Amy Davis takes the Restaurant Report Card to school cafeterias.
No matter how old or young you are, you probably have some memories of your old school cafeteria.
"Chicken tenders with cheese," one mom told Davis.
"The best part is the milk," said one Foster Elementary fourth grader.
But Local 2 Investigates found some schools making more than memories. Just like restaurants, school cafeterias are inspected at least once a year, and the rules are the same.
"They have to meet the same standards as any restaurant," city of Houston Health Department Consumer Health Bureau Chief Patrick Key said. "Hot and cold running water. Temperatures have to be correct."
Let's face it: Small children are more at risk for food-borne illnesses than adults. Health inspectors would agree the violations they found in the Clear Creek Independent School District add to their concern.
Health inspectors told employees to "take all effective measures to minimize the presence of rodents at Clear Lake High's ninth-grade campus.
They told employees at Space Center Intermediate to clean inside the "cabinets to remove old rodent droppings."
At Westbrook Intermediate, the milk was too warm. Employees were ordered to repair the walk-in cooler.
At the Houston Independent School District's Foster Elementary, a manager told inspectors exterminators placed glue traps and that they are aware of the rodent problem, but said they can not find the point of entry.
"You can get so many type of infections from rodents, so, yeah, it's a big concern," one Foster Elementary parent said.
Cafeteria employees at Briscoe Elementary were written up for not washing their hands.
Inspectors condemned 11 pounds of food and milk at Gallegos Elementary deemed "not safe for human consumption" because it was stored at the wrong temperature.
Employees at Dechaumes Elementary agreed to close the cafeteria when inspectors showed up and found no hot water in the kitchen.
Even with those violations, most schools in HISD had none. Schools like Edison Junior High, Albert Thomas Middle School and Harvard Elementary all earned an A for cleanliness.
Private schools don't get a pass from health inspectors, either. When they stopped by the Montessori School of Downtown in League City, inspectors "observed roach activity" under a counter and roach droppings on door hinges.
Inspectors didn't find any violations at Humble ISD's Kingwood Park High School or Aldine's Bethune Academy. Both earned an A+.
"You have to do your job every day the right way," Beverly Hills Intermediate cafeteria manager Debbie Murray said. "You can't just prepare for the inspector. That's not what it's about."
At Beverly Hills and almost every school in Pasadena ISD, inspectors found spotless cafeterias.
"It's about providing safe food every day as we go along," said Murray.
There are hundreds of schools in our area. We just couldn't include them all in this report. To find the City of Houston health inspection report for your child's cafeteria, click here and enter the name of the school.
All of the schools or districts mentioned in this story were offered the opportunity to talk with KPRC Local 2 on camera. They all declined, but sent us the following statements:
"The Clear Creek Independent School District is committed to providing a safe and effective environment for all students. We share in the city of Houston Health Department's mission to ensure kitchen and serving areas meet city, state and federal guidelines. District staff took immediate actions to correct the issues raised in the inspection reports.
- A subsequent inspection on September 27, 2011 by the Houston Health Department concluded with a positive report on the Clear Lake 9thGrade Center, no violations or signs of problems.
- Cooling controls at Westbrook Intermediate have been modified to provide adequate refrigeration. This was corrected immediately. There is no indication that a follow-up inspection is required.
- City-recommended pest control efforts have been implemented at Space Center Intermediate. The District employs a full-time certified pest control manager who regularly inspects campuses and district facilities."
Elaina Polsen Director of Communications