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LA Unified survey finds cafeteria equipment more than 3 decades old

Mike Szymanski | January 25, 2016

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cafeteria workerSome of LAUSD’s cafeteria freezers are more than three decades old. Some of the stoves in the kitchens don’t work anymore.

The board has approved spending up to $856,635 to survey 477 public school cafeterias to see what needs to be upgraded, fixed or replaced.

“Many of our kitchens are aged and have walk-in refrigerators and freezers that have been in use for over 30 years,” Timikel Sharpe, co-director of the LA Unified’s Food Services Division, said in a report to the school board. “Currently, there are more than 770 open repair tickets for refrigeration work alone across the district.”

Sharpe said, “Like many pieces of our kitchen equipment, they have far exceeded their life expectancy and pose a potential threat to our ability to prepare and provide safe and healthy meals for our students. For many schools, new equipment has become a necessity.”

The district has to identify what needs fixing or replacement. A survey began last summer with 206 schools to help the district begin prioritizing what needs to be done. There are 477 more schools to check, and more than 18,000 pieces of kitchen equipment to test.

The plan is to develop a list of needs for refrigeration systems, aging facilities, outdated plumbing, exhaust hoods and fire suppression systems to meet current fire, mechanical and health codes. So far, none of the money has been used for kitchen equipment.

Board member Mónica Ratliff, chair of the district budget committee, suggested there might be more to the problem than age.

“Equipment becomes obsolete as soon as we give it to them,” she said. “There’s something wrong there.”

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