For many, a summer day at the ballpark isn’t complete without a hot dog or box of popcorn from the concession stand. But a combination of hot weather, exposure to the outdoors, and volunteers with no food preparation experience means there’s a chance of being served unsafe food.
Typically, the Monroe County Health Department routinely inspects restaurants and food trucks, and health violations are common knowledge. But Indiana Code 16-18-2-137 says health departments don’t have to regulate foods served for “educational purposes in a non-public educational setting.”
That means the county’s health department isn’t inspecting most concession stands, including those affiliated with schools and youth organizations such as little leagues, said Ashley Berquist, environmental health services manager for the county. MCHD.
School concessions managed by athletic departments, clubs
Schools typically have a named person or group in charge of maintaining their concession stands, Berquist said. But because the county health department doesn’t inspect them, it doesn’t keep any information about them.
At Bloomington High School North, athletic director Andy Hodson carries the brunt of franchise responsibilities. Parents and student volunteers usually run the stands at games, he said. But most of the time, it does the rest.
Every Monday, Hodson places an order with Gold Medal, a company that sells concession supplies, which deals in foods like popcorn, chips and candy bars. Every two or three weeks, he places an order at Pepsi. And two or three times a week, he goes to Sam’s Club to buy hot dogs, buns and whatever the stalls lack.
Then, with the help of assistant athletic directors and trainee teacher assistants, he helps unload and restock deliveries each week.
“It makes me stop whatever I have to do, but it’s part of this gig,” he said.
While most foods and drinks — except for hot dogs — are individually wrapped and won’t make anyone sick if they’re expired or tampered with, Hodson said, he makes sure the volunteers throw away food that is nearing its expiration date. At the end of each game night, leftover reheated food is also discarded.
Volunteers from different school clubs and sports teams run the concessions at each game, and all profits go to them, Hodson said.
At one point, the recall clubs made concessions, Hodson said. The school also had a concession operator. But Hodson feels more comfortable running the show himself, he said, even if it takes time from his other duties.
“It takes up a lot of our time, and it’s not lucrative,” he said. “But if people see the concession stand isn’t ready to go, they’re not going to look at any recall club, they’re going to look at the athletic department…they’re going to look at me.”
Bloomington High School South and Edgewood High School concessions are operated by the schools’ respective strip booster clubs and operate similarly.
Little League Led by Parent Volunteers
Some organizations, such as the Richland-Bean Blossom Youth Sports Organization — which operates little league baseball and softball in Ellettsville — are harder to pin down.
The Richland Township administrator leases several concession buildings to R-BB Youth Sports, administrator Marty Stephens said, but is otherwise not involved in baseball league.
R-BB Youth Sports concessions are managed by a concession manager, according to the organization’s bylaws. Representatives for the organization did not respond to requests for comment.
Several people, from R-BB Youth Sports volunteers to coaches, are given keys to concession buildings, Stephens said. Eventually, it becomes unclear who has the keys.
“There are keys everywhere, so if you don’t lock you leave the door open, something like that,” Stephens said. “Things happen.”
Last month, a parent volunteer posted on Facebook that R-BB Youth Sports concession buildings were covered in mouse droppings before being cleaned ahead of the summer season. The post received dozens of comments pointing out similar cleanliness issues in dealership buildings.
A pantry inside the administrator’s building, located a few hundred yards from the baseball and softball fields, is regularly inspected by the county health department, Stephens said. Concessions are not. Even when Stephens asked the department to inspect the dealership buildings, it failed to do so.
“How come we get food from the Hoosier Hills food bank and it’s packaged or frozen and we put it in freezers and coolers, and (concession operators) get food from ‘where they get food, and they open it and they touch it and sell it to hundreds of people, and they don’t get inspected? said Stephens. “It just seems a little unbalanced.”
Contact Christine Stephenson at [email protected]