THE LUNCH LADIES: Southwestern cafeteria employees Traci Harsin, from left, Debbie Stewart and Angela Young fill trays as children go through the lunch line during first lunch. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck/rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
THE LUNCH LADIES: Southwestern cafeteria employees Traci Harsin, from left, Debbie Stewart and Angela Young fill trays as children go through the lunch line during first lunch. (Staff photo by Renee Bruck/rbruck@madisoncourier.com)
It’s enough of a task for Southwestern Elementary cafeteria employees to prepare nearly 300 breakfasts and more than 700 lunches each school day, but they did so without receiving a single health inspection violation last year.

Wanda Spurgeon, Southwestern’s food service director, said this is the first time in many years that the school has been honored with the recognition and it’s taken several years to get to this point.

“They have worked hard to get it,” Spurgeon said.

Cafeteria workers noted violations at the cafeteria in the past haven’t been all that severe, yet an uncovered drink on a counter, a towel left out or ice spill led to marks during inspections. 

Cafeteria employee Carie Adcock said it just takes a lot of experience and teamwork to remember what could lead to a violation.

“It’s kind of like tying your shoes, you do it every day,” she said.

Jefferson County Health Department officials announced Southwestern Elementary as one of the 35 schools, businesses and organizations without any violations relating to food safety and food preparation in 2016. The number of locations with no violations decreased by 11 from 2015.

Food establishments with no violations during 2016 included: Madison Lighthouse, J & R Corner Grocery, Mike’s Grill, Cocoa Safari Chocolates, Rembrandt’s Gallery and Wine Bar, Nancy’s Tasteful Cakes, Madison Vineyards, Grooms Group LLC, Butt-N-Racks BBQ, Breaktime Catering, Simply Elegant Desserts, Big Lots, Dollar Tree, Night Fall Farms, Crazy Ladies Catering, Paradise Cove Catering, Rose Cottage Bed & Breakfast, Windy Hills Bed & Breakfast, Azalea Manor Bed & Breakfast, Broadway Manor Bed & Breakfast, Iron Gate Bed & Breakfast, Madison Vineyards Bed & Breakfast, Two Sisters Bed and Breakfast, Lydia Middleton Elementary School, Canaan Community Academy, Deputy Elementary School, The Coffee Shop at Hanover College, Chi Omega at Hanover College, Phi Delta Theta at Hanover College, E.O. Muncie Elementary School, Christian Academy of Madison, Southwestern Elementary School, Southwestern Jr & Sr High School, Pope John Elementary School, and Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School. 

High-risk establishments, which include full-service businesses, are inspected quarterly while other medium- to low-risk establishments that often sell prepackaged food products or have very little food handling are inspected bi-annually. Sometimes businesses and area schools are in a lower-risk category after several years of few or no violations.

Southwestern cafeteria employee Traci Harsin said health department officials drop by unannounced for inspections twice a year at the school. 

Officials simply walk around while preparing a report that is discussed at the end of the visit.

Sometimes, officials highlight upcoming changes to inspections – like the recent change that eliminates wearing earrings and jewelry in the kitchen – that could lead to critical or noncritical violations. Ongoing education of restaurant and food service employees also allow businesses to learn of changes and reduce and eliminate violations.

“It’s not just simple lunch lady anymore,” Adcock said. “It’s so much more.”

A system of fines for multiple or repeated critical and noncritical violations keeps businesses in check throughout the year. The release and publication of inspections also serves as a way that seems to keep violations to a minimum.

By Indiana statute, health inspection reports become public record 10 days after a health inspection.