Report: NYC School Cafeterias Plagued by Critical Health Department Violations

Photo by Tim Lauer via Wikimedia Commons


    Public school lunches in New York City are more than just unappetizing — they are apparently harmful to your health.

    A new study released by NYCity News Service, part of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, found that in 2017 nearly 700 school cafeterias received at least one critical health department violation, with the four-dozen worst offenders largely residing in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

    More than half of the critical violations, according to the investigation, found “evidence of mice, rats, roaches and other insects in food preparation and consumption areas, along with flies.” A “critical violation” is a condition that could cause someone eating the food to become ill.

    brooklyn public school cafeteria report

    Photo by Barbara Eldredge

    Brooklyn has more than 300 schools with recorded violations, although some schools share a cafeteria. The John Jay Campus cafeteria in Park Slope was among those with the most critical violations.

    Five schools, including Millennium Brooklyn High School, Brooklyn East Alternative Learning Center and Park Slope Collegiate, share the cafeteria, which was cited for seven critical violations.

    During a March 2017 visit from health department officials to Public School 398 in East Flatbush, they found “live roaches and close to 600 fresh mice droppings,” according to the report.

    Part of the problem, the report says, is the lack of staff at school cafeterias. “We don’t have enough manpower,” Shaun D. Francois, president of Local 372, the union representing cafeteria workers, told NYCity News Service. “For mice droppings, because of staffing, they can’t clean because they’re busy running around serving kids.”

    In the past year, the city has opened up access to reports on cafeterias, including the number of violations. But the investigation claims that these reports are not detailed enough, excluding information such as the severity of each violation.

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