Pasta for Pennies food fundraisers make adaptations to follow food codes

Samantha Stulen | Staff Writer

The food sales that generated money for Pasta for Pennies will have stricter guidelines next year to ensure safety. Student Activities Director Lorri Fox-Allen said that guidelines for student food sales have always existed to ensure that food is properly prepared, but are not well known to teachers who aren’t club advisers.“There have always been those guidelines [for food preparation],” Fox-Allen said. “Usually, the only people that know about those guidelines are the advisers of clubs, because they do sales frequently [and are very aware of the rules].”

Supervisor of Food Service Darlene Hicks said that the student food sales, if found to be a serious violation of the health code, could result in the removal of the school’s participation in the National School Lunch Program.

The National School Lunch Program is a program that allows the cafeteria to offer free and reduced price lunches for students who are qualified financially. Hicks said that a reduced-price lunch is forty cents and the government pays back the school $2.28. For a free lunch, the government reimburses the school $2.68 due to national averages of school lunches being higher than Mason’s lunch price at $2.45.

Hicks said that if an inspector deemed the cafeteria meeting criteria, but saw the food sales in the halls, he or she could shut down both the cafeteria and the food sales.

To prevent this, National Honor Society (NHS) Adviser Barb Shuba said that food safety guidelines will be sent to all students at the beginning of the NHS Pasta for Pennies food drive for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society next year.

“We’re going to set up some guidelines [next year],” Shuba said. “If you want do food sales [and] you’re doing pre-packaged stuff, [that’s fine]: it’s already a done deal. If you’re doing hot dogs or anything, here are some guidelines you have to follow: hair nets, gloves [and] how you’re preparing the food.”

The installation of these guidelines for next year, according to Shuba and Fox-Allen, is not meant to suppress the support that the drive receives from food sales.

“I hope it won’t hinder people from doing [food sales for Pasta for Pennies],” Shuba said. “[Doing food sales is] definitely is the attitude [to have], instead of people [saying], ‘Hey bring me your money.’ You have to applaud those people that said, ‘Hey, let’s go about this a different way. Let’s generate.’”

Shuba said that next year, student food sales are expected to continue, but the guidelines will try to prevent any chances of food contamination.

“We were excited so many people were getting behind [the food sales to raise money],” Fox-Allen said. “There’s a fine line [of], ‘Let’s not squelch the excitement and the amount of money that we raise: let’s do it right.’”

According to Fox-Allen, the best way to sell food is when it’s prepackaged or from a direct source, such as donuts from Busken Bakery, to which the administration can refer back if someone in school gets sick.

“We know where [the donuts] were made and we have somebody else that we can go back to if people are getting sick,” Fox-Allen said. “Restaurants have to cook things at proper temperatures and are run by the Board of Health, [like] our Commons. From what I understand from Food Service, the Health Department could come in here and shut everything down [if food protocol is not run to its standards].”

The Ohio Uniform Safety Code that the Health Department uses to regulate said in Section 3717-1-03.1 that “food prepared in a private home may not be used or offered for human consumption in a food service operation or retail food establishment.”

Food prepared at home, according to the code, cannot be sold by students for Pasta for Pennies in the halls, as well food prepared by equipment from home, Hicks said.

Fox-Allen said that she had to check that the food being sold in hallways was being kept at the right temperature in the weeks of food sales.

“If we’re selling hot items, it has to be kept at the temperature that the Health Department deems [healthy],” Fox-Allen. “I was calling [to find] out what the right temperature was for hot dogs and [making sure] everybody [had] hair nets and gloves, because of sanitary reasons.”

The e-mail that will be sent out by NHS will entail that students have to sign up for locations and follow a guideline.

“[The e-mail will] say you can only sell in [certain pods],” Fox-Allen said. “‘This is where you can sell [your classroom’s food]. This is what you can sell. If you sell this [certain food item] you have to wear nets and gloves, [that food item] has to be kept at a certain temperature.’”

Fox-Allen said that the administration will allow two groups of food sales at a time for a period of days within the duration of Pasta for Pennies to ensure everyone has an equal chance.

“We would try to find some additional locations within the school so there’s more [opportunities],” Fox-Allen said. “The best thing would be for everyone to send in their requests right [so] we can organize and schedule everybody equally and fairly.”