A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Cafeteria is now cockroach-free

Christian DaSilva
SRJC chef preps and hands-off meal to hungry student.

The Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa Junior College cafeteria in Bertolini Student Center is officially free of the cockroaches that reared their heads in June and caused health inspectors to shut down the restaurant for a week.

The Sonoma County Retail Food facility inspector gave Fresh & Natural three violations, two that were considered “major.” The inspector cited the cafeteria for a major violation for having spoiled food in a back refrigerator after its door was left open. In the second major violation, the inspector reported seeing 20 cockroaches between the main kitchen, bulk flour bins and outside storage areas. The minor violation pertained to unstocked washing stations, meaning they lacked soap or hand towels.  

              Fresh & Natural Manager Andy Chhay said the primary cause of the infestation came from the fact the cafeteria had been closed for a month just one week prior to inspection. This allowed the bugs time to move in and start multiplying. It was compounded by deliveries from food distributors who regularly drop off goods for Fresh & Natural, often at unscheduled times. It’s been speculated that they came in on a “dry shipment” delivered about a week before returning from break.

Jenny Chhay, Fresh & Natural floor manager, said staff thoroughly checks every box that comes in for pests. With an average of 300 to 400 boxes arriving weekly from warehouses all over the state and country, it’s understandable that some pests could hitch a ride.

As per the contract between Fresh & Natural and the SRJC, the Chhays  immediately reported the cockroach sightings to the SRJC administration and called in Western Pest Control to address the issue.

Unfortunately, around the time the exterminator showed up, the health inspector was already on campus to inspect the student Food Pantry. Noticing the exterminator’s truck outside the Bear Den, he decided to investigate.

It took a week for the exterminator to eliminate all the pests and for another inspection to take place before the Sonoma County retail food inspector permitted Fresh & Natural to reopen. Western Pest Control now makes weekly checks of the kitchen and uses preventative traps.

Neither the exterminator nor Fresh & Natural staff have seen any cockroaches or found them in traps in any of the checks since the main incident.

“We have mandatory daily wipe downs on all surfaces at the end of each workday; as well as, [we] perform deep cleanings off all floors and mats with a power washer ever Friday and Sunday.” Andy Chhay said.

Guy Tillotson, SRJC waste diversion technician, reported that he is always pleased and surprised with the high level of organization and cleanliness in the kitchen whenever he goes to collect compost. Tillotson said he had never noticed cockroaches.

      Fresh & Natural initially partnered with the SRJC in 2009 and endured a food health scare late that year with several serious health code violations. Fresh & Natural hired a new manager, Andy Chhay, who has maintained a perfect health inspection record since 2010.

Fresh & Natural’s 10-year contract with SRJC ends this November. The company will have to reapply for another partnership.

Kate Jolley, SRJC Vice President of Business, said, “I don’t feel the shutdown negatively impacts our relationship with Fresh & Natural as we have a partnership and our collective goal is to provide a service for our students. It was an unfortunate occurrence, but we worked together to get the services back open as soon as possible.”

Students have been found on both sides of the fence after learning about the shutdown. SRJC student Miguel Chavez said, “I might start preparing my own lunch from now on because it sounds like they have unsanitary work conditions.”

However, Ghafar Yermira, an SRJC student who regularly uses the cafeteria and had already known about the shutdown, said, “If they started up again then they must have cleaned up the issue” and plans to continue eating at the cafeteria.

Regardless of where you stand with fresh and natural, the cafeteria is open once again and continues to serve it’s students the best they can.


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