PATERSON, N.J. — From “disgraceful” to “something a dog wouldn’t even eat,” the critics on social media showed no mercy when describing a pair of lunches served to students at Paterson International High school last week.
The photos were first shared by a parent on Facebook and then by a teacher and local advocate Zellie Thomas on Twitter. Soon after, they went viral.
One of the meals, Thomas said, was apparently chicken cheese steak. The contents of the other meal remained unclear, as of Wednesday.
The uproar not only caught the attention of many in the community, but also the Paterson Board of Education.
“It’s just disgusting,” BOE President Ken Simmons told PIX11. “There’s just no other reaction.”
Simmons agreed that he wouldn’t serve the meals to his own children. He also said the school lunch mishap was the result of cafeteria staff not following the assigned recipes for the meals.
Simmons assured parents that providing nutrition through the district’s free lunch program is, and has always been, a priority.
“There are some families who could afford to make sure their children eat something different or healthy and even send them with lunch but for the vast majority that’s not the case,” he said. “So that’s what makes it extremely disturbing.”
The BOE said it will address the situation by conducting a thorough assessment of the district food services program. It’s a large undertaking considering the district feeds 25,000 students from kindergarten through eighth grade with a budget of $3.5 million annually.
The far-from-appetizing dishes are now serving as a wake-up call.
The district’s food program was expected to be discussed at a committee meeting Wednesday night.
According to Simmons, it was already on the agenda but the recent controversy will now propel the discussion as well as change.