"School Lunch Flunks: An Investigation into the Dirtiest New York City Public School Cafeterias" is the incendiary headline of a report that charges that the New York City Public Schools is hiding information about violations of health codes from parents even in cases where the school cafeterias "have constant issues with mice and other vermin." It recommends that school cafeterias receive the same publicly posted grades that commercial restaurants receive.
The report was compiled from health inspection data obtained from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) by the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of seven Democratic members of the New York State Senate that had broken with their party to form an independent bloc that has worked with the majority Republicans on various issues over the past four years, according to the New York Times. Majority control of the legislative body next year is currently up in the air pending the resolution of some races and how some members, including the IDC, decide to align themselves.
In the report's conclusion, the IDC says it "will introduce legislation that would require the DOHMH to publicly grade school cafeterias as they do restaurants, and require the DOE [New York City Department of Education] to make these letter grades public and available to parents, both by posting them in schools in a place visible to the public and by including the information in the school quality reports annually published by the Department."
The report concedes that "the majority of cafeteria inspections led to scores that would equal an 'A' [on the commercial restaurant grading scale but] more and more school cafeterias are failing to meet the grade." In fact, according to IDC's findings, 85.62 percent of inspections conducted in fiscal year 2015-16 would be graded at an A, though the number of violations issued has also increased, by 17 percent, between fiscal 2013-14 and fiscal 2015-16.
The report "also found schools that perennially fail to get an 'A' and that have constant issues with mice or other vermin, and parents have no way of knowing this." According to IDC’s data, 61 schools in the 2015-16 fiscal year had a B or C grade in every inspection they had over the period and 30 schools had at least one B or C level inspection in each of the past three fiscal years.
Inspectors gave out 442 mice related violations to 320 different school cafeterias in 2015-16 and four had evidence of rat activity. In one extreme case, a single inspection of an elementary school cafeteria uncovered 400 mice excreta, the report notes.