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New York City school cafeterias may get letter grades like restaurants

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School lunch food isn't usually considered gourmet cuisine but cafeterias in New York City may start getting graded-- just like restaurants.

Elected officials in the Big Apple want cafeterias in city schools to post letter grades just like restaurants in the city, reports DNAInfo. Those ratings are intended to reveal if the kitchens are kept up to code in terms of safety and sanitary conditions. 

State senators from the Independent Democratic Committee (IDC) say their proposed legislation would require the Health Department-- which already inspects school cafeterias-- to make their inspections public by giving letter grades to the schools. Those schools would then be required to post the kitchen grade in an area that is publicly visible to kids and any visiting parents. 

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The legislative push comes after new City Health Department records, obtained by the IDC, showed unsanitary conditions at 13 percent of school cafeterias surveyed. In the last fiscal year, 395 out of 2,976 completed inspections resulted in a sanitation grade of B or worse, the New York Daily News reported.

Out of those reviewed, 320 cafeterias had 442 mouse-related health violations, 136 schools had 155 fly-related violations and, in four schools, evidence of rats was discovered.

School cafeterias in Brooklyn were the most affected and they also led in the amount of violations for mice, flies, roaches and pests.

“Many young people have their basic meals at the school cafeteria ... and I think it’s extremely important we know how clean or how dirty those cafeterias are,” State Senator Jeff Klein, who heads the IDC, said amid the report's release. 

“We expect our kids to get A’s and we should expect the cafeterias that feed them to work just as hard to make the grade,” an IDC report said. “It begs the question why the city is more transparent about the performance of private restaurants than with its own performance in keeping those kitchens we utilize to feed students clean.”

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But there's good news for the majority of kids who eat meals at school cafeterias. If graded, 86 percent of cafeterias in the study would have received an A under the standards the Health Department applies to restaurants currently. 

Health Department officials say they are are reviewing the proposed legislation and hope to to "work closely together [with the Department of Education] to correct violations quickly."