Report: Nearly 700 New York City Public School Cafeterias Cited for Health Code Violations in 2017

Abdiaziz Shaleh, right, a Lewiston high school senior and co-captain of the soccer team, and Essa Gedi, center, both whose families emigrated from Somalia, sit with classmate Isiah Leach, left, during lunch in the school's cafeteria in Lewiston, Maine, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Two years ago, immigrant children led the …
AP Photo/David Goldman

Approximately 700 New York City public school cafeterias inspected by health officials were cited for at least one health code violation in 2017, according to a report.

In a report titled “Food Plight,” student journalists from the City University of New York compiled data from the New York City Health Department and found that about half of the 1,400 public school health officials inspected in 2017 had at least one critical health code violation.

New York City health officials place health code violations into three different categories: general, administrative, and critical.

General violations are issued when an inspector notices that an establishment has poor ventilation, improper flooring, or other structural fixtures around an area of food preparation.

Administrative violations are issued when establishments fail to display posters with information on what to do in a choking emergency or if inspectors find issues with trash bins or toilet areas.

The critical violations—health code violations that could put people at risk for foodborne illnesses—are the ones that are most likely to harm students.

Health inspectors found that more than half of the 1,150 critical health code violations noted the presence of rodents, roaches, and other insects in areas where food is prepared or served.

In the borough of Brooklyn, six schools had been cited for five critical violations, and one school racked up seven critical violations. Most of the schools cited for these violations had issues with roaches, mice, or food protection.

Heaven Santiago, a student at John Jay/Millenium School in Brooklyn, shared his experiences of eating the food at the Brooklyn school that had been cited for seven critical health violations.

“It doesn’t taste good and it doesn’t look good,” Santiago told the CUNY students authoring the report. “If the intention is to create food for us to be healthy, it’s been skewed. It’s highly unhealthy and unsanitary.”

The student journalists found that the four dozen schools that got the worst marks for inspection in 2017 were in the city’s poorest areas, according to the report.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law in September 2017 requiring schools to post their health inspection results online at the beginning of each school year. It is unclear whether that law has prompted these schools to improve their conditions.

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