A new trend is growing in how students at Hawaii’s public schools are getting their lunches.
The State Department of Education (DOE) serves hundreds of thousands of meals to children every single day, with some of the meals being made at one school and then packed and driven somewhere else.
It’s what the state calls satellite kitchens. They don’t make the food, but instead get it hot off a truck and serve it to students for lunch.
These kinds of kitchens are popping up on all of the islands, KHON2 wanted to know how safe the kitchens are that make the food your kids eat everyday, and why are full kitchens at schools are being phased out.
According to the Department of Education, the reason for these satellite kitchens is to cut costs while still keeping up with all of the food safety regulations set out by the Department of Health.
For the state it’s about fiscal responsibility, by eliminating the staff and the equipment it takes to run a full kitchen, the state tells me it saves around $230,000 per school by introducing the satellite kitchens, a price increase on school lunches was taken off the table.
“The good thing is we’ve actually found ways like this to really challenge ourselves make ourselves more fiscally responsible and be more efficient,” said Dann Carlson with the Department of Education.
Of the 200 plus schools in the state, 62 of them have their food cooked elsewhere and trucked in each day.
KHON2 wanted to know how this process is regulated, and it safe.
We found out food temperature is constantly monitored, nothing is ever frozen after it’s cooked, and the DOE kitchens that cook the food follow the Department of Health’s green, yellow red placard system.
“The Department of Education employees are very diligent especially the cafeteria managers making sure food is really prepared,” said Peter Oshiro with the Department of Health. “So it’s very rare that we have any kind of problems incidents the Department of Education kitchens.”
The Department of Health adds that the DOE has some of the cleanest kitchen it oversees. And they check these kitchens more than anywhere else because of who they’re serving, kids.
“At least for the last 10 years we’ve been inspecting them twice a year every year and they were given special preference because of their clientele the serving children,” Oshiro said.
KHON2 wanted to know what’s better, a meal that is served where it’s made, or as part of the satellite kitchen program.
The DOE says because the distance is so short between kitchens, and the food it kept at temperature, there’s no difference.
“A transported meal served at a satellite facility is just as safe as a meal prepared and served right there on campus.”