District of Columbia health officials yesterday shut down a food service program for the elderly at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church, where the officials said vermin, unsanitary conditions and substandard equipment were discovered.

The facility, called the Change, Inc., Nutrition Program for the Elderly, had operated several years without a license and consequently had never been inspected, according to Dr. Bailus Walker, D.C. environmental health administrator.

Inspectors found "critical deficiecies" in the basement kitchen at 16th and Newton Streets NW, including heavy rat and roach infestation and dirty toilet facilities, Walker said.

Health inspectors said they learned that the facility serves meals to about 300 elderly persons, including about 35 members [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] run by the [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] sources at the Area B [WORD ILLEGIBLE] by Mental Health Center, 1125 Spring Rd. NW.

A DHR official acknowledged that clients of the agency were served by the unlicensed facility, but said he did not know whether DHR contracted for the service.

A spokeswoman for Change, Inc., an upper Cardozo neighborhood improvement program, said the nutrition service was not under their jurisdiction, but shared Change, Inc. offices.

Clarence Hunter, senior warder at St. Stephen, said the food service used church facilities but was operated independently. Verna Burke, head of the food program, who accepted the health citation, could not be reached for comment.

Among other deficiencies, health inspectors cited lack of equipment to keep food hot for distribution and temperatures below the level required to prevent contamination in prepared food.