by: Carl Willis Updated:
ATLANTA, Ga. - The Atlanta Public School Board of Education heard a call for action over school cafeteria concerns Monday.
A group of food service workers and APS employees want Marilyn Hughes, director of the nutrition department, to resign.
The workers and their union leaders at AFSCME say roaches and rodent droppings were found in school kitchens.
They also say there is a problem with faulty coolers that don't keep food cold enough, and equipment that doesn't keep hot food at the proper temperature.
They also say some kitchens don't have food thermometers.
"Some overcook the product and some foods are under-cooked, and this is a very unsafe practice," said cafeteria manager Frankie Jackson. "If foods aren't cooked at correct temperatures, it will allow bacteria to grow and our kids will get sick."
Chasity Thornhill is the mother of a 7-year-old student.
She says reports rodent droppings and slime in the ice machines worry her.
"I would like (APS) to take my child's health more serious than what it's been," she said.
Alan Lee, the director of AFSCME, led a march to the home of the Hughes' home and continued to call for her resignation before the school board.
"It's choosing profit over children," said Lee. "It's choosing to cut corners instead of providing the necessary protection for our children."
An APS spokesperson responded with a written 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 Sodexho and local employee organizations; however, our focus remains to ensure safe meal preparation and cafeteria environments for our students."
Lee responded by saying this is not a worker issue.
"This is not a labor dispute as the district is trying to frame it," he said. "This is a dispute about the quality of food and care that we provide our kids."
Some parents, including Thornhill, say they want to make sure the recent improvements in cafeterias are not temporary.
"I have faith in them," she said. "I believe they will change."