by Robin Kemp

5:54 p.m.: UPDATES with comment by CCPS

5:39 p.m.: UPDATES with response by Pointe South Elementary nutrition manager about hot chips

4:56 p.m.: UPDATES with link to list of CCPS food contracts

Some Clayton County parents say their kids’ school breakfast and lunch deliveries include spoiled produce and chips too spicy to eat.

Ever since COVID-19 forced Clayton County Public Schools to rely on distance learning, the school system also has made a big effort to provide students with breakfast and lunch. At first, “grab and go” sack lunches, often packed or even provided by volunteers, were the order of the day. Later, CCPS began using school buses to deliver lunches for pickup along the neighborhood bus routes.

Lately, however, some parents say lunch items are inedible.

A photograph posted to the Clayton County Moms and Dads Facebook group page showed a school lunch with a tangerine that had begun to rot and mold around the stem.

“And this is why I still have to provide my kids with breakfast and lunch…. this is what the school is packing and delivering,” Kia Stanley wrote. “Yeah ok and I’m not supposed to complain. Parents if you’re home, please check your kids food and if you’re not please tell your kids to check their food for anything that’s opened or rotten. This was the last straw for me.”

Other parents chimed in, saying they have had other problems with CCPS-provided meals. In particular, many complained about spicy chips that their kids could not eat.

“I did complain to the nutrition office about the spicy Doritos,” Wendy Godfrey Beasley wrote. “It takes parents calling, emailing, etc., to get it changed. Not sure how much control they have on what is sent to them, though, but I have not seen quite as many since school started back in January (but maybe they just pack his bag with a different flavor since I complained). I just want them to put in 2 days’ worth of milk in the 2-day bags since that is the one thing my special needs kiddo drinks every morning and it definitely helps the grocery budget.”

Tiffanie Leanne wrote, “It’s pretty sad what we have received- more than half of it is not even edible. I’m so sick of Doritos flamas.”

LeLe Mack said she works for Atlanta Public Schools and that “it’s not just a CCPS issue… they outsource this food from a vendor. All they do is put it in the bag! But yeah, someone needs to be informed… don’t even waste your time getting it unless you’re truly in need is my thought!”

Teneka R. Cain said she’s grateful for the help, “but I too have gotten rotten fruit and expired milk. But maybe because the milk is frozen it’s still good idk. I often get cereal with frozen chocolate milk.”

Candy Stanley said, “The bagels always have mold on them.”

CCPS supplied chips are too hot for Candy Stanley’s kids to eat, so she resells them.

Other parents say the food either goes to waste–or they try to repurpose it.

“I waste alot of it especially the milk,” Christine Dunkintell said. “I really just keep the juice and snacks because of my daycare.”

Stanley said she has another use for chips that are too hot for her kids to eat: “I sell them at work!”

Still others have given up on the lunch deliveries altogether. Amber Green wrote, “I just stopped going to the bus stop. I was throwing away more then they would eat.It was always the same stuff too which they don’t eat spicy food and why a school would deem it healthy I have no clue. Last time a parent spoke up about this, they were told to get over it because it’s free.”

Edna Arreola suggested a different approach to handling student lunches: “I don’t understand why the county doesn’t give out P-EBT card again. Not all of us qualify for food stamps. That was a great help last time. These frozen applesauce and milk and stale sandwiches is wasting taxpayer money.”

The Clayton Crescent asked CCPS for more information about who is providing the food to the school system and what quality controls CCPS has in place to make sure bad food doesn’t go out on the buses.

CCPS spokeswoman Jada Dawkins said that CCPS, like APS, bags and distributes the food, and that the vendors are responsible for delivering first-quality food. Dawkins said Royal supplies CCPS’ produce.

According to Dawkins, “The produce is fresh and is bulked packed. During meal preparation, the staff looks for damaged produce and discards it. If there is something wrong with a piece of produce or any other items in the lunch bag, the parent or student can contact the home school to have the bag or item(s) replaced. A member of the team will deliver the replacement meal(s) to the home.”

We also contacted all school board officials for their comments and to see whether they can help solve the problem.

School Board President Jessie Goree said, “Parents should contact their Principal or our Director of Nutrition [Audrey Hamilton].” She added that she would contact Superintendent Dr. Morcease Beasley to look into the matter.

Pointe South Elementary Nutrition Manager Siresa Ledford told the Clayton County Parents group, “Thank you for your input. I will stop ordering the hot chips. We thought kids like hot chips and we try to order items students would enjoy. Didn’t realize they were super hot. Please do not hesitate to contact the manager at the school where the meals are coming from. The manager will speak to staff about inspecting the fresh fruit more thoroughly. We are working hard. Believe me, Audrey Hamilton will address your concerns.”