Pest infestations among over 1,000 critical violations in NYC school cafeterias in 2017
Almost half of all New York City public school cafeterias inspected were cited last year for at least one critical violation for issues which could lead to foodborne illnesses, according to an investigation and subsequent report released by NYCity News Service, a City University of New York (CUNY) student-powered news service. It used data obtained from New York City’s Department of Health through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
At one public school in the borough of Brooklyn, live roaches and almost 600 fresh mice droppings were found by a city health inspector. Data obtained from another school in Brooklyn revealed that five second-graders became sick after consuming cafeteria lunches, the report stated.
At a public school kitchen in the borough of Queens, an inspector found around 1,500 flies on July 12, 2017. The Department of Health gave the school two days to clean up and place all their food in rat-proof containers. However, while there was some improvement in the conditions, when inspectors returned, the kitchen was still dirty and flies were still swarming.
Before the release of the report in September, New York City enacted the “Free School Lunch for All” program, funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision. It calls on schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students without collecting household applications.
After the release of the report, Michael Acimen, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Education, stated that “all schools must provide students with safe, clean cafeterias and we ensure that they meet all federal and state requirements,” according to WNBC.
Aciman added that the city's Department of Education works closely with health officials in order to “immediately investigate and address any violation,” and he stated that in 2016, 97 percent of schools passed their inspections, WNBC reported.
In September, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation requiring New York City's education department to publicly post the findings of school cafeteria and kitchen inspections on the internet for transparency. However, NYCity News service said it received more specifics about the severity of the violations from the health department’s reports, according to WNBC.