USA Today has found a hot topic in school lunches. Last week the newspaper reported that the safety requirements for beef served in many school cafeterias aren’t as stringent for the safety requirements for beef served by fast food restaurants. Now they are reporting that 26,500 school cafeterias lack required inspections.
The federal government’s Child Nutrition Act requires that school cafeterias get inspected twice a year. USA Today discovered that over 8500 public school cafeterias were not inspected at all last year. Another 18,000 missed one of the two required inspections.
One of the biggest obstacles to inspections is money. The requirement is considered an “unfunded mandate.” There is no money provided to the schools to hire inspectors, and government health agencies don’t have the money or manpower to do the required amount of inspections.
Why are inspections so important? The cafeteria is the number one place in schools where illness spreads. If cafeterias aren’t following safety measures, the risk for a food born illness increases.
The Child Nutrition Act is up for renewal. It was up for renewal this year, but Congress pushed it off until next year. The quality of food should be the first order of business when the act is renewed. More fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and hormone free milk should be front and center. Congress needs to find some room to fit cafeteria inspections in there, too.