health concerns

New York Lawmakers Want to Put Letter Grades on School Cafeterias

Fail. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

Some lawmakers want New York schools to have to hang letter grades in their cafeterias, just like the city’s restaurants. The push is led by a group of State Senate Democrats who just released a scathing report called “School Lunch Flunks: An Investigation Into the Dirtiest New York City Public School Cafeterias.” Health Department inspection reports for cafeterias usually aren’t made public, but the group got a hold of 3,000 of them and learned the city’s 1,800 schools had racked up 8,114 violations in the past year, about a thousand more than the previous year. State Senator Jeffrey Klein, one of the authors, says the findings — everything from mouse droppings to roach infestations — are “stomach churning,” yet parents “have no way of knowing about these violations.”

It all sounds pretty grim: Inspectors found filth flies at 136 schools, and noted myriad conditions “conducive to pest and vermin infestations” like holes in walls and dried food behind kitchen equipment. Forty-two schools apparently didn’t have soap and water for staff to wash their hands with, and elsewhere, a “green substance” reportedly turned up on the pizza. If a grading system like the one used for restaurants were applied to cafeterias citywide, the report says 31 of them would earn a “C.”

The group wants the grades posted at schools, and also included in the Department of Education’s annual quality reports. Reps for the Health and Education departments say they’re reviewing the proposed legislation, and will also work to make the cafeteria inspection reports “more easily accessible to the public.”

Lawmakers Want to Put Letter Grades on School Cafeterias