Blogs Mice, rats, roaches or flies found in half of NYC school cafeterias

  • February 1, 2018


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Want flies with that?

Nearly half of city school cafeterias racked up at least one dangerous health code violation in 2017, such as evidence of mice, rats, roaches or flies.

A new analysis of city Health Department data conducted by student journalists at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism found 1,150 critical violations that could lead to foodborne illnesses at nearly 695 school cafeterias.

That’s almost half of 1,407 inspected by health officials in 2017. And 617 of those critical violations showed evidence of vermin in school kitchens and dining rooms.
Second-year CUNY Journalism school student Pauliina Siniauer, who produced the report published Wednesday with other students for CUNY’s NYCityNews Service, said the findings should raise red flags for families.

“It’s a health risk. Critical violations can get kids sick,” said Siniauer, 36, who based her report on data she obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We found that kids were vomiting and ... getting sick from the food,” Siniauer added.
One of the worst was Middle School 137 in Ozone Park, Queens, where an inspector found about 1,500 flies in the cafeteria on July 12.
Four days and two additional inspections passed before later, school staffers cleaned up the infestation, according to the report.

Parents were disgusted when a reporter informed them of the mess. But they weren’t surprised because their kids had told them of the filthy conditions.

Solomon Ramdas, 54, said his 14-year-old son used to share horror stories about flies and roaches in the cafeteria when he attended last year. Now he hears similar stories from his 11-year-old daughter, Saryn, who’scurrently enrolled at the school.

"The system has to change,” sad Ramdas. “I have heard stories about roaches in the cafeteria. My daughter doesn’t eat here. The kids always get sick.”
At the Public School 770 in Brooklyn, parents said they hadn’t been informed of an inspection on March 20 that found roaches and mice droppings in the cafeteria and kitchen.
“Children can get disease from being around that,” said Michelle Machado, 38, who has two kids who attend PS 770. “This is the first time I’m hearing this. Would the school be honest and tell me about this? I don’t think so.”

The CUNY analysis published Wednesday comes on the heels of a number of negative reports about food being served in city schools, including green pizza that was yanked from menus in 2016.

But Mayor de Blasio doubled down on school food in September, with the announcement of free lunches in all city schools for any student who wants them.

City Education Department spokesman Michael Aciman said roughly 98% of schools passed their health inspections in 2017, which is the rough equivalent of a B or better if the school cafeteria were a restaurant rated by the city.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of students and staff,” Aciman said. “We work closely with the Department of Health to immediately investigate and address any violation.”



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