A first of its kind report released Thursday exposed the true extent of the nastiness lurking in hundreds of the city’s school cafeterias.
The report, "School Lunch Flunks: An Investigation into the Dirtiest New York City Public School Cafeterias," noted that 8,114 violations were found at 1,377 cafeterias inspected in 2015-16. Seventeen percent of those violations are considered “critical.”
Critical violations affect food safety and are issued when inspectors find mice, roaches, flies or pest droppings on the premises, Cooking food at incorrect temperatures and unsanitary food handling are also considered critical violations.
State senators Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, Jesse Hamilton and Senator-elect Marisol Alcantara authorized the report and want to introduce legislation that would provide better transparency of these hazards as they often go unknown except for an occasional news report.
The lawmakers propose that the Department of Health issue letter grades to school cafeterias as it does for restaurants. The letter grades would be displayed in the same fashion as restaurants.
“This report shows that many of the cafeterias in our city schools have racked up numerous health code violations, and that parents have no way of knowing about these violations. If parents can make decisions about the restaurants they frequent based on a letter grade, they should have the same knowledge about where their children eat every day,” Klein said at a news conference unveiling the report.
The DOH uses the same numerical grading for cafeterias as public establishments, and based on that data the report then assigned corresponding letter grades to schools. Inspection scores of 14 or under correspond to an A, 14-28 earns a B, and 28 and above gets a C.
For instance, the cafeteria in Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue Elementary School, where inspectors found 400 mice poops during one visit, would receive a C for its inspection score of 41.
Over 300 hundreds schools had 442 mice citations in the past year. Sixty-one schools had cockroaches in the cafeteria, and about 400 schools had other pest-related violations.
“Filth flies” violations were issued against 136 schools.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told Metro that they are reviewing the proposed legislation.
“School cafeterias perform very well on health inspections, with 86 percent earning the equivalent of an “A” grade on initial inspection compared to 59 percent of restaurants,” the spokesperson told Metro.
“Students can be confident that schools are serving food that is safe for them to eat.”
A spokesperson for Klein told Metro “We hope that they would support this effort for the health and well-being of students who attend the schools.”