‘Unacceptable’: Disturbing school lunch in Paterson prompts response from MLK’s daughter

New Jersey

PATERSON, N.J. — The lunches being served in Paterson schools are continuing to churn stomachs. 

A week after photos of lunches served at Paterson International High School surfaced on social media, more off-putting images are making the rounds. 

One of the disturbing photos was taken at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Complex. 

The lunch, believed to be a slice of processed turkey and a glob of sliced carrots, was shared by teacher and advocate Zellie Thomas. 

The far-from-appetizing dish prompted outrage from parents in Paterson and beyond. 

Bernice King, the daughter of the civil rights icon who is the namesake for the school, even gave her two cents on the plate reportedly served to a kindergartener. 

“Unacceptable,” King wrote in a tweet.

“Her and I are on the same page,” Eileen Shafer, Superintendent of Paterson public schools, said Thursday at a press conference, responding to King’s tweet. “We know we have a problem and we are already meeting and fixing it.”

Shafer is vowing to crack down on the messy meals, announcing three emergency meetings she will now hold with food service administrators and cafeteria workers to figure out what is going on.

New training for staff members also will be implemented. 

“My message to them is simple – if you wouldn’t eat it yourself don’t serve it to our students,” Shafer said.

As part of the school lunch overhaul, the district will mandate the food service department to eliminate the self-serve option and provide a protein, fruit, starch, and vegetable to every school lunch handed out moving forward.

“We want to make sure that we address this issue head on,” BOE President Ken Simmons said. “It is something we’ve been dealing with since the first picture has surfaced.”

That is a claim Paterson Education Association President John McEntee disputes, saying that school lunch woes have long plagued the district. He also said the district’s handling of the situation where its seemingly pinning the blame on workers is unfair. 

“To try to blame those problems on the food service worker in a school is atrocious and it starts with the leadership at the top,” he said.

What they all agree on is that change needs to happen. In addition to meeting with kitchen staffers, the district is also planning on sending surveys out to students to get a better feel of what they like and don’t like about their school lunch options.

The results of that survey will play a big role in what is served down the line

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