NYCity News Service Uncovers Widespread Health Violations in School Cafeterias

  • By Ellen Lai

A NYCity News Service investigation found that nearly 700 New York City public school cafeterias were potential breeding grounds for foodborne illnesses based on health inspection records from 2017.

The schools received critical violations from the NYC Health Department that showed evidence of mice, rats, roaches and flies in food preparation and consumption areas.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, asked Friday about the News Service’s investigation on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, said he hadn’t read the story. But he said reports indicating unsanitary conditions in school cafeterias “don’t make me happy.”

“We’re going to hold the cafeterias to a very high standard,” he told Lehrer.

Class of 2017 students conducted a five-month investigation as part of the investigative reporting class taught by Andrew Lehren, a senior editor on the NBC News investigations team and a former investigative reporter for The New York Times.

Students Pauliina Siniauer, Mallory Moench, Rahima Nasa, Jeremy Ibarra and Lizeth Beltran examined health inspection records and used the data to produce an interactive map that allows the public to see which schools were hit with critical health code violations in 2017. “Our students set out to dig into inspection records and uncovered a story that every parent needs to read,” said NYCity News Service Director Jere Hester.

The NYCity News Service’s findings come at a time when the city is now offering free meals to all 1.1 million children in its schools.  Read the full report here.

Several local news outlets, including NBC New York, FOX5NY, Telemundo 47 , and The New York Daily News cited the NYCity News Service’s report.

The NYCity News Service is an award-winning media outlet that feeds stories by CUNY J-School students to news organizations of all types and sizes, and produces in-depth special reports. It aims to provide incisive coverage of the city’s many and varied neighborhoods, which do not receive enough journalistic attention. The NYCity News Service strives to tell New York stories in multiple media formats, reflecting the energy, concerns and diversity of the city. The pieces are held to the highest and most professional standards of fairness and accuracy.