When a south Texas mom saw a photo her daughter took of a meal she was served at high school on April 29, 2015, she flipped.
“I emailed the head of the nutritional department and they responded immediately about their concerns and embarrassment,” said Jennifer Smith, the mother of a student at La Vernia High School. “She was going to immediately handle the situation at the campus.”
The picture (see slideshow above) shows a chicken sandwich product unwrapped from a Tyson brand package with an obvious greenish mold spot on the top of the bun.
Smith said she was impressed with the quickness of the response from the school:
“I am FURIOUS and I am going there right now to address this,” was the reply Smith received. “I apologize and there is NO REASON AT ALL that this should happen. I am so sorry that it happened to any of our students. Every one of these will be pulled off the line, immediately. THANK YOU for letting me know this and it will be taken care of.”
According to mothers and students, the school district reacted fast and the matter was expeditiously settled. But this incident asks the question, just how safe is our children’s food at school?
Food today is not the same as most Americans grew up a few generations ago. It was prepared by cafeteria staff that knew how to cook and bake many of the recipe items from scratch. Today the food industry is a multi-billion dollar business with lobbyists, associations and funding for influential groups representing the industry.
Critics say the food industry is following the same lines as the pharmaceutical companies by influencing the health industry. About 55, 000 cafeteria professionals belong to the School Nutrition Association (SNA). Almost half of the SNA’s $10 million operating budget comes from the food industry. SNA spent $4.7 million in 2012 for membership fees and sponsorships to their conferences, events and activities. This figure does not include other monies such as participation in various SNA membership scholarships.
Just last week, news reports indicate kindergarten, first and second grade classes were served meat with 2009 expiration dates at several school cafeterias in Rogersville, Tennessee. According to several reports, a cafeteria staff person took photos of pork roast that was thawed and served to the students on April 23.
“These high-schoolers – they understand if they see something they are not going to like they don’t eat it,” said Hawkins County Commissioner Michael Herrell. “But when you get to these kindergartners, first- and second-graders, do they really know if the meat is bad or not?”
“The actual woman making a stink about it said it smelled so bad they made gravy to put over the meat to give it a smell and give it a better taste,” Herrell added.
“There were some meats with dates of 2009, 10, 11 in the freezer. Our child nutrition supervisor had the cafeteria managers look at the meat, do the tests, and see if it was OK,” said Director of Schools Steve Starnes. “The decision was made to serve it.”