ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Nutritional guidelines at schools across the country have changed, but kids' tastes really haven't.
"What's your favorite thing to eat here at school?", we asked 8-year-old Ries Brady. And he answered, "Pizza!"
"It just tastes horrible", says 9-year-old Victoria Ochoa. "What does?", we asked. "Asparagus. Yuck!" was her response.
But a balanced diet is far from the biggest challenge at local schools.
"Serving safe food is our top priority to our students, "Katie Koester said.
Koester is the Director of Nutrition Services in the Mehlville School District, where they serve 5,000 meals a day. And twice a year, every cafeteria in the district is subject to a surprise inspection from the St. Louis County Health Department.
"It's always a little nerve-wracking having someone looking over your shoulder, "she says, "but if you do it right every day, then when they come in, it's just another person in the kitchen."
We combed through hundreds of documents from counties across the bi-state and every school we checked in the Mehlville District got a Grade A, but what we found in some other districts was less than appetizing.
For instance, at Wilson Elementary in the Granite City, Illinois district, in the first check of the 2012-2013 school year, Madison County health inspectors found three critical violations.
"Those are things that we know if left unaddressed could directly cause some sort of problem, namely some sort of food borne illness, explained Toni Corona, the Public Health Administrator in Madison County.
With 100 being the best score, Wilson only recorded an 86. Among the issues, rodent feces found in food storage areas. That news was a big surprise to some parents.
"Very much, I had no idea. No idea", exclaimed Kelly Wright.
"That is crazy!" , added Amanda Kremers. "I wouldn't want it in my home, why would i want it in my kid's school?"
Granite City Senior High School only scored an 81 when the 2013-2014 school year began. They also had three critical violations including food being stored at dangerous temperatures.
"Mike, we take it very seriously, "Jim Greenwald said.
Greenwald is the Granite City Schools Superintendent.
"We sat down immediately and said what is it that we're doing wrong and what do we need to rectify," he said.
Granite City wasn't the only place with issues. This past December, inspectors found a potentially hazardous situation with the food service at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Some salad bar items were at improper temperatures. They scored an 89
For the most part however, most of the schools we checked had scores like Bryan Middle School in the Francis Howell District. A perfect 100 for the past two years.
When schools do have critical violations, like her counterparts in other counties, Toni Corona works with the school district to keep kids safe.
"We will go back on site, we will make sure that they've done whatever it is that we've asked them to do to bring their score back up, "she said.
And in Granite City, that's exactly what happened.
At the Senior High School at the last inspection, last month there was only one critical violation. The sanitizing solution for wiping cloths was too weak but they upped their score to a 92.
And at Wilson Elementary where they found rodent feces in a storage area in 2012, they too had only one critical violation at the latest inspection this past March. Their sanitizing solution was also too weak but the Superintendent can tell parents that the score was up to a 94.
"I want them to know that we're constantly aware of it, always looking to seek improvement and would never put their children in harm's way," Greenwald said.
Five on your Side will keep checking to make sure that when our school children eat, there are no dirty little secrets.
If you'd like to check on your child's school here are some links.
St. Louis Cityhttp://www.healthspace.com/StLouis-MO
Lincoln County http://www.lchdmo.org/images/Food_Inspection.pdf