October 31 2012

Chicken Nuggets with a Side of Rat Droppings

Julie Gunlock

A a CBS news investigation reveals that since 2011, over a third of Chicago’s 681 schools have failed at least one health inspection.  The HuffPo reports:

The school with the worst record, Anton Dvorak Elementary, has failed city health inspections six times since 2011. Its violations run the gamut from no hot water in bathroom sinks to food stored at unsafe temperatures and over 200 rodent droppings found in food service areas.

Cameron Elementary was home to a mice dropping infestation, with “more than 600 scattered” droppings, according to inspectors.

At Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School, students actually got sick eating rodent droppings after mice found their way into a box of bagged nachos. In the aftermath of several students becoming sick and two being taken to the hospital, the kitchen was shut down and the school hired a new principal and kitchen staff. Six former kitchen workers may also face disciplinary action.

According to CBS Chicago, another school to fail inspection was Farragut Academy, where inspectors say there were too many droppings to count. At Songhai Learning Academy, a live snake was discovered stuck to glue paper in the kitchen. Meanwhile, at Ariel Academy, inspectors heard “gnawing sounds” emanating from the wall.

Schools in Central Florida are also failing food inspections.

In April, an investigation by WFTS-TV that examined food safety reports from counties all over Central Florida revealed that Hillsborough County — the largest school district in the area — had more unsatisfactory health inspections than any other district, with 17 schools failing at least one food inspection.

Some of the more serious violations included a stop sale on food at dangerous temperatures, no hot water, and roaches and ants in the kitchen.

Some will use this news story to push for more funding.  They will suggest it was lack of funding that created this mess in the first place--despite $4.5 Billion being pumped into the school feeding programs in 2010.  My hope is that instead of seeing this as an excuse for more funding, this story will motivate people to stop relying on the school lunch program to feed their children. 

And there’s simply no reason parents should be ceding this responsibility to the government.  Currently 32 million children receive a free, reduced price or full price school lunch. Yet, 16 million children currently live under the poverty level (ostensibly the very children this school lunch program was designed to help).  Who are these extra 16 million children getting a school lunch?

The truth is, federal school programs are overwhelmed.  This was a program designed to feed needy children, not children whose parents hit the snooze button a few too many times and failed to make little Johnny and Janie a brown bag lunch.  Parents, not government school feeding programs, need reform.   

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