A surprise inspection of the reStart homeless shelter’s kitchen this month found conditions that a health manager termed “unacceptable,” with food areas riddled with pests and their feces.
ReStart officials said Wednesday they are addressing the roach infestation and other problems that led to the scathing Kansas City Health Department report.
“We take this very seriously,” reStart president and CEO Evie Craig said about the Oct. 2 inspection.
She noted the kitchen was never shut down despite multiple violations, and a follow-up inspection last Friday showed most problems had been corrected.
Still, Naser Jouhari, Kansas City environmental health services division manager, described the original inspection results as “totally unacceptable.”
He said it is unusual for a Kansas City establishment to have so many violations, including observations of several dead mice, mouse droppings, multiple dead roaches and roach feces, live roaches outside the dining room, moldy vegetables in a walk-in cooler, dry rice inundated with weevils and several pans of food that were insufficiently cold or hot.
Jouhari said reStart, at 918 E. Ninth Street in downtown Kansas City, is inspected several times a year. He could not recall another such disturbing inspection there. He said the kitchen was not shut down Oct. 2 because it did not pose an immediate health threat.
“Our goal is not to shut down the businesses,” he said, “especially for this establishment.”
The reStart shelter serves three meals every day of the year to about 150 residents.
Jouhari said he was encouraged that many of the violations had been fixed, but his division will require repeat inspections every 30 days for probably another six months.
The Oct. 2 inspection was prompted by a complaint from someone who claimed to have been at the shelter for almost a month, with ongoing symptoms of nausea, vomiting and headaches. The caller complained of seeing roaches on walls at the toast prep station, around unused refrigerators in the dining area and in a dry food storage room a long hallway’s distance from the kitchen.
Craig and other staffers said the kitchen serves only shelter residents, not outsiders, and they knew of no one who had reported getting ill from the food.
The kitchen employs about a dozen people, all of whom have food-handling licenses. Craig acknowledged that pest control is the kitchen’s biggest challenge because it is on the ground floor of a 97-year-old building and has had little updating over the years.
Even before the inspection, reStart had embarked on a $2 million capital campaign to completely renovate the ground floor, including the kitchen and dining area, which should dramatically improve conditions, Craig said.
For several years, the facility has had a weekly pest control treatment by Blue Beetle Pest Management. The company was shown the inspection report and is addressing areas of concern, Craig said.
Workers also have moved the dry storage area to a more accessible room, she said, to address many of the pest issues.
“We have to all be very, very vigilant about this,” Craig said.