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home : latest news : local February 6, 2016

2/20/2013 9:58:00 AM
Stellar food handling earns Golden Plate awards for local schools
Heidi Dahms-Foster
Former Editorial Manager

Chino Valley area schools are doing a lot of things right when it comes to food handling.

Every school in the Chino Valley Unified School District, along with Mingus Springs Charter School and Chino Valley Head Start, earned a Golden Plate award from Yavapai County for 2012. The county announced the awards this past week.

To achieve a Golden Plate award, an eating establishment must operate through the entire calendar year without a cited critical food handling violation, have an approved and implemented food safety plan, and have a person in charge through the year with an accepted and current manager level food safety certificate.

Two schools, Del Rio Elementary and Territorial Elementary School, have achieved the Golden Plate awards for seven straight years. Chino Valley Head Start is on its fifth year, and Heritage Middle School won the award for the second year. Mingus Springs Charter School and Chino Valley High School both earned the award for 2012.

Other Chino Valley eateries earning the Golden Plate for 2012 include McDonald's, Sonic, Starbuck's, Subway, and Taco Bell/KFC. Pizza Hut achieved the award for the second year.

Chino Valley School District cafeterias are operated by Sodexo, a worldwide food facilities company, but staffed by local workers, many of whom were at the schools before Sodexo came 18 months ago, said Rich Reichert, nutrition manager for Chino Valley schools. Reichert lives in Chino Valley, moving here when Sodexo took on food services at the district.

"We're providing the services, but the folks on my staff and the kitchen staff are the ones that are doing a wonderful job," he said.

One violation by one employee is enough to keep an eatery off the Golden Plate list, so the achievement of several years of the award is a real accomplishment.

"We're talking inspections of 100 points for seven consecutive years (for Del Rio and Territorial)," Reichert said. "Last year, Chino Valley High missed it by one point."

Inspections note such things as food temperatures, how food is stored, cleanliness, and more.

"One of the biggest things is that they check the can openers to make sure they are clean and sanitized," said Reichert.

Most of the establishments that win Golden Plates year after year have a training program and process in place. Reichert said Sodexo requires monthly reports and inspections at each school, and also provides twice-monthly food handling and physical safety training to its employees.

Still, the inspections are a bit nerve-wracking.

"When (the Yavapai County Health Services) inspector is there, he's not only asking questions at one end of the kitchen, he's watching someone at the other end, making sure he's doing things correctly," Reichert said.

"Last year he saw someone use a can opener and not clean it right afterwards. Del Rio and Territorial have not even been accused of a dirty can opener for seven years," he said.

Reichert said kitchen managers Carmen Ramos at the high school, Sue Bloomfield at Heritage, Mary Brown at Territorial, and Bernie Boris at Del Rio, along with their staff members, take great pride in providing clean and safe food service.

"They raise the bar for themselves to get it. They want to take care of the people they serve. They are so proud of what they do and they do a darn good job. They're very customer service oriented, all of them," Reichert said.

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