Dozens of cafeteria workers, parents and students in the Atlanta School District packed into the standing-room-only school board meeting Monday night to demand the nutrition director resign.
They said Marilyn Hughes has known about unsafe and unhealthy conditions in many school cafeterias for months.
"I just wanted them to stop feeding us bad food. Can you please help us?" second-grader Mycah Robinson asked of the board members.
"Please help keep our cafeterias clean and the food they feed us healthy," echoed Angel Thornhill, who is in first grade.
Members of AFSCME, the union that oversees cafeteria workers, showed CBS46 pictures taken in a cafeteria kitchen. They said they showed rat and roach droppings along with slime on equipment and moldy food.
"I trust the school with my kid for the eight hours she's here," said Chasity Thornhill, whose daughter attends Heritage Academy in southeast Atlanta. "I don't want her to come home sick."
Thornhill said her 7-year-old daughter, Angel, has often come home complaining of an upset stomach.
"I was just thinking maybe she ate too much, but that's dangerous. That's scary," said Thornhill.
Union leaders said they want the problems corrected.
"It's beyond disgusting," said AFSCME's deputy director, Alan Lee. "It's unacceptable. And to the extent it's unacceptable, we must make sure it stops."
Lee also addressed the board members at the meeting, telling them, "This is not business. This is very personal. Very personal how you treat our children."
After the meeting he told CBS46 the union, workers and parents are being clear and consistent that Hughes must go. "And the new superintendent is scheduled to come in and we intend to let that be one of the first issues we raise with her," he explained.
The district would not make Hughes available for comment and said it contracts a company, Sodexo, to handle food service and works with the company to address any issues.
"Sodexo maintains strict adherence to food safety procedures and guidelines that lead to clean, safe operations and nutritious food," said company spokesman Gregory Yost in an email. "All Atlanta Public Schools sites managed by Sodexo have passed inspection this year and are in compliance with health department guidelines."
APS released the following statement:
"Atlanta Public Schools' nutrition services department is responsible for conducting regular audits of these services and continues to be forthright in raising concerns. All cafeteria sites have passed inspection this year and are in compliance with health department guidelines. APS is aware of ongoing labor relations issues between Sodexo and local employee organizations; however, our focus remains to ensure safe meal preparation and cafeteria environments for our students."
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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