Rats Part Of Growing Pains For Fresh Food Program At San Francisco Schools

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — San Francisco Unified School District serves more fresh food and a greater number of meals to their students since switching food providers last year, but the fresh-food program has led to some infrastructure challenges of its own including one problem with four legs and a very bad reputation for carrying disease: rats.

Students have enjoyed healthier breakfasts and lunches prepared and cooked locally by East Bay food provider, Revolution Foods. However, the success of the program — and the increase in fresh food on site – is highlighting a lack of refrigerators at schools as well as excess food waste, which may be factors in the increased presence of rodents at schools.

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SFUSD has purchased new refrigerators for about 20 school sites since this past summer, but there’s still the need for more.

“We have enough equipment to meet our current needs. Where we would like to see more equipment is actually as we grow our own food program. We’re hoping to increase the number of students who are eating meals at schools. In order to be able to do that, we need to grow our infrastructure,” said school district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

One of the challenges related to feeding students is rodents. A San Francisco Examiner review of health inspection data shows many rodent issues began in 2013, the same time more fresh food was introduced into schools as part of the food lunch reform popularized by First Lady Michelle Obama. The results of lunch reform are now being criticized by opponents using the hashtag #ThankYouMichelleObama.

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The Examiner also cited a report by the district’s Student Nutrition Services as noting “With the increase in breakfasts served, there has been an increase in waste,” which attracts more rodents.

Blythe stressed that pest management is nothing new to the district and claimed it is not the result of their new program.

“We have an ongoing challenge with pest management as do all the restaurants in the city,” she said.

Blythe said the program has been most successful during breakfast.

“That’s really important for kids to not come and sit in class hungry and have to wait for lunch. Our lunches are being served with several options a day and all of those options exceed the federal requirements for student nutrition programs,” she said.

They served 70,000 breakfasts to students during the 2013-2014 school year, as well as 190,000 lunches and 30,000 dinners under a new supper program.

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