Serious Health Concerns Raised with Ward Elementary School Lunch

Written By: Deprecated User

We received the following e-mail inquiry regarding the lunch quality and quantity at Ward Elementary School. The author is concerned that the food has been deteriorating at Ward and Dr. Weiss told her no other school is complaining. Have you heard of this?

Hello Everybody – I hope you are all doing well. I have been busy getting ready for No Junk Food Week. In the midst of it, our hot lunch experience at Ward school is deteriorating at a rapid rate. I wanted to know if any of your schools were having problems.

Most recently (i.e. – this week and last week) there is simply not enough food to serve the children in the school. The 4th graders (the last served) are down to two pancakes (minus the “dried” egg – whatever that is — and minus sausage. When that ran out, they were given white bread and american cheese (that’s it). Today children received 3 chicken nuggets (as opposed to six).

For months now the kids are getting left-overs. For example, they have hamburgers “fresh” on Wed. and will get them reheated on Thursday. They have also been served Friday’s pizza the following Monday. I am told that the hot dogs bounce, although I have never witnessed it :). I am sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg. My children do not get any hot lunch this year. I cut out their Friday pizza when Ward school’s milk was found to be well beyond it’s expiration date last year.

I have long been concerned about the quality and variety of the food served by Aramak from a nutritional and taste perspective. However, I am now concerned from a safety perspective. Serving old, reheated and potentially spoiled food is plain unsafe. Not having enough food to satisfy the caloric and nutritional needs of students is beyond reprehensible. For many children in Ward (and the district) hot lunch is their only chance at a “meal” all day. Thus, it is their only opportunity to receive the nutrients they need to fuel their mind and body.

It is an outrage and an embarrassment that Aramak is failing to provide even the “basics” to our children. It is my understanding that there have been problems at Ward school for some time with this food service. I spoke to Dr. Weiss this afternoon and she advised me that she has not received complaints from other schools in the district.

I am wondering if the reason for that is that there are no problems in other schools or that it hasn’t been escalated to Dr. Weiss. If you do have problems/complaints in your school, now is the time to speak up about it. I feel that our children are entitled to a better food service provider and I know that they are out there.

Please share your thoughts with me on this issue. As you know, there is strength in numbers and I feel it might be time for a change.

Please pass this e-mail on to anyone you think I may have missed. (I am working off my e-mail contacts from last year). Thanks so much.

We wonder, is this how the City School District of New Rochelle plans to save money? Interesting that Trinity Elementary parents received the same type of “brush off” from Dr. Weiss, when she was initially approached by a parent from Trinity Elementary School regarding the 4th and 5th graders 15 Minute Lunch (click here). An issue that remains unresolved. Good luck to the Ward families in their efforts.

Note: Mr. Martin Daly, President of the Teachers Union and PTA Co-President was on the original distribution list and is in receipt of the original e-mail.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The question of whether it is OK to reheat hamburgers and hot dogs is “it depends”. Specifically, it depends on how well the meat is cooked in the first place, how long it is left out, how it is refrigerated and for how long.

USDA offers
the following food safety recommendations:

Cook Thoroughly: Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 145 °F. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160 °F. All cuts of pork should reach 160 °F. All poultry should reach a minimum of 165 °F.

NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

Reheating: When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs, grill to 165 °F or until steaming hot.

Keep Hot Food Hot: After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served — at 140 °F or warmer.

Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200 °F, in a chafing dish or slow cooker, or on a warming tray.

Serving the Food: When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should never sit out for more than 1 hour.

Leftovers: Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90 °F).

6 thoughts on “Serious Health Concerns Raised with Ward Elementary School Lunch”

  1. This emailer wrote:
    “I spoke

    This emailer wrote:

    “I spoke to Dr. Weiss this afternoon and she advised me that she has not received complaints from other schools in the district. I am wondering if the reason for that is that there are no problems in other schools or that it hasn’t been escalated to Dr. Weiss.”

    Dr. Weiss has an established track record of fobbing off parents with answers just like this. I would like people to think about the answer this person has reported getting Dr. Weiss. She gets a complaint from a parent about problems with Ward School. Rather than thank the person for letting her know, telling the person she will look into it and get back to them, she basically says “no one else is complaining so there must not really be a problem”.

    This is the typical “divide and conquer” strategy of the district and why this site is vital to creating an open, fair and responsive school district. The only person who knows whether other parents have complained to Dr. Weiss about other schools would be Dr. Weiss. We already know how she initially reacted about complaints at Trinity School over the 15 minute lunch. Then, the parent who brought the initial complaint was told, basically, “no one else is complaining so there must not really be a problem”.

    It was only after the efforts of contributors on this site to raise awareness, get signatures on a petition and confront Dr. Weiss with well over 100 families who had expressed concern that Weiss took any sort of action. It may not come to anything but Dr. Weiss at least did create a committee at Trinity to study the issue with an eye towards fixing the problem by next fall. Of course, her hope is that parents will forget all about the issue (note: a school district employee was put in charge of the committee, hardly the sort of independence called for in this case).

    Parents need to understand that the knee-jerk response of just about every school official is to dismiss expressions of concern by parents. The strategy is well-known to anyone who has brought a concern to the district. They are ignored or treated in a patronizing manner. If the parent persists they are made to feel isolated (“no one else is complaining”). If they still persist they will experience various forms of retribution for “rocking the boat”. If the parent tries to go public they will “rally the troops” – putting stories out in the Journal News, taking some cosmetic action that is not corrective but appears to address the parents concern, packing school board meetings with astroturfed support for the school district.

    Now, I have no idea whether there are problems with the food at Ward School or any other school but any complaint should be taken seriously. I do know there was a past problem with rodent infestations at Ward and other similar problems at Jefferson. We have all heard about recent deaths associated with schools around the U.S. serving contaminated Peanut Butter.

    There should be no minimum number of complaints required before Dr. Weiss responds to a parent on a matter like this. By now, Dr. Weiss should have already conducted a surprise inspection at the school, tested to see that any reheated hamburgers were first reheated to 165 degrees to kill bacteria. She should have also asked to see how the food was stored over night. She should then have responded to the parent and invited them to visit the school with her or someone from her staff.

    To say that the parent’s concern is somehow not worth considering because no one else has complained is absurd. More to the point, the district has a long history of lying about matters like this. We do not know that there have not been any other complaints only that Dr. Weiss says so. Anyone familiar with the school district knows what that means.

  2. Umm, before anyone rushes to
    Umm, before anyone rushes to alert the media, has anyone spoken to the principal? district administrators? Maybe that should be step one.

  3. The only way to really get
    The only way to really get results on an issue like this is to notify the newspaper.

    1. No. The way to get results
      No. The way to get results is to raise awareness. There are many ways to raise awareness of situations like these. One of the most important is right here. The stories that appear on this site regularly get results.

      If more parents are concerned about the food at Ward School and express that here the more likely it is that the school system will address the issue.

  4. Does anyone have Dr. Weiss’s
    Does anyone have Dr. Weiss’s job description to post here? She makes over $160K and has implied more than once that eating standing up is faster than eating sitting down.

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