A new report from the City University of New York (CUNY) has found that nearly half of the cafeterias in New York City schools had at least one major health code violation last year, with many showing evidence of mice, rats, and cockroaches.
To conduct the report, student journalists from CUNY analyzed city health reports from 2017 to see how common health code violations were in New York school cafeterias. Upon examing the reports, the team found that 700 cafeterias, about half of the approximately 1,400 inspected by health officials in 2017, had one or more “critical violation”, which indicates an environment that could lead to foodborne illnesses.
According to the report, cafeterias all across New York City’s five boroughs fall well below the acceptable sanation standards set by city officials, including cases of more than 600 mice droppings and approximately 1,500 flies discovered in cafeterias in Brooklyn and Queens, respectively. But violations go beyond vermin and insects: An elementary school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn may have caused five second-graders to become sick due to “dirty equipment and poor protection for how food was laid out.”
The report also found that if a cafeteria had one violation, it was highly likely to have several more violations as well. Despite more than half of the cafeterias in New York City schools not having any health code violations, city health inspectors discovered “an average of two violations per school cafeteria visit” because schools with violations often had several, driving up the average.
School cafeteria health code violations have proven to primarily be a socioeconomic issue, as the report stated that, “the four dozen schools with the worst inspections records in 2017 largely serve some of the city’s poorest students.” According to city records, the students attending these schools tend to be disproportionately minority group members, meaning that minority students living in poverty are far more likely to be exposed to cafeteria food that could get them sick.