Why Dont Ed Officials Eat The Same Food That is Served in Our Public School Cafeterias?
March 16, 2003
Let the Brass Eat Mystery Meat
To the Editor:
Re 'Naked Lunch: Schoolchildren Grimace and Can't Bear It' (March 9): I started a lunchtime discussion group several years ago at a Manhattan school, and every Monday in the cafeteria for an entire school year I saw the most unappealing, overcooked vegetables and undercooked meat I have ever seen. My fourth and fifth graders traded, bartered free homework help, anything as long as they did not have to eat that 'food,' if that's what it was.
Why not ask the distributors to feed the administration at the Tweed Courthouse before the meals are delivered to our children?
Upper East Side
Here is the NY TIMES article I replied to:
THE CITY WEEKLY DESK
NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: UPPER WEST SIDE; Naked Lunch: Schoolchildren Grimace and Can't Bear It
By DENNY LEE (NYT) 432 words
Published: March 9, 2003
Few would confuse the students at Public School 84 with food critics, but their reviews of the cafeteria are prompting changes.
'Those lunches are nasty!' wrote Amber Bass, a fifth grader at P.S. 84, a largely Hispanic school on West 92nd Street near Central Park West. 'They are all mushy and burnt. I hate those school lunches!'
Another fifth grader described the fare in detail. 'The cheese on the pizza is hard,' Justin Stevens wrote. 'When the lunch ladies serve spaghetti, it is sometimes just sauce. When the lunch ladies cook chicken, it's pink.'
One student even remarked on the service. 'The lunch ladies should be friendly to the kids,' Jeniece Nieves said.
Complaints about burnt pizzas, however, were minor compared with the critiques of the milk. Many students said the milk was served lukewarm and past its expiration date. Cottage cheese, anyone?
'That's outrageous,' said Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, whose district includes the school and who asked the students to write down their criticisms after a recent field trip to City Hall. 'You have to eat in order to be educated and think.'
In response, inspectors from the Department of Education recently visited the school. They had a different dining experience.
'The school was serving terrific meals,' said David K. Chai, press secretary to Chancellor Joel I. Klein. They also found nothing wrong with the milk. 'We have no reason to believe the school was serving expired milk,' he added.
The visit did uncover antiquated ovens that repeatedly scorched meals. They are being replaced with newer models that have something called a thermostat.
The city's schools serve about 650,000 lunches a day. The food is cooked off site and arrives with heating instructions. A typical meal consists of a hamburger, canned fruit, a pint of milk and a vegetable dish, which often takes the form of French fries.
While the city's school cafeterias rarely evoke culinary rapture, advocacy groups agree that their fare usually surpasses that served in hospitals.
'Everybody likes to bad-mouth school lunches,' said Agnes Molnar, a senior policy fellow for the Community Food Resource Center, a nonprofit group in New York. 'School food programs suffer from not enough money and too much stigma.'
'Kids don't want to be caught dead getting lunch,' Ms. Molnar said, adding, 'If you get a free lunch, you're seen as a welfare kid.'