The parents were at the school board meeting to ask about the maggots that kept showing up in their kids’ food. But the board didn’t want to discuss it.
As Fox News reports, the first hint of a problem came when Madison Smith, a student at Madisonville Middle School in Tennessee, saw something squirming around in her lunchtime granola. The seventh grader decided to take a video of the insect and send it to her mother.
And she wasn’t the only one.
Smith told WBIR:
“[Her classmates] started looking at their plates, and they were like, ‘I think this is maggots.’ And so people started getting out their phones and recording so that we could show our parents.”
Smith’s mom, Brandy Shubert, told WBIR that she was shocked when she watched the video her daughter sent:
“She starts zooming in and it’s maggots. What in the world? How can someone feed children maggots?”
After checking with her daughter’s pediatrician about the health concerns involved, Shubert spoke to the kitchen staff at the school. The mom found it difficult to believe that no one could have noticed maggots crawling in a bag of granola.
Two days after the granola incident, a student found another maggot-like creature — this time on a blackberry served as part of the school breakfast. Misty Neal, the student’s mother, told WBIR:
“I was just blindsided by this video that I saw today. These past three to four days, it’s been really concerning. Something has [to be done]. It just can’t happen again. It just can’t.”
Worried about the conditions in the school cafeteria, Shubert and Neal attended a school board meeting that evening to raise the issue. But the concerned parents were not given a chance to speak.
According to WBIR, when the issue did not come up in the meeting, Neal stood and asked, “Are the parents going to get a chance to talk about what’s been going on at the middle school? Because we are very concerned about what’s been going on with the food.”
However, the board would only say that the problems had already been dealt with. Shubert told the Knoxville News-Sentinel they were told that the maggot issue was not on the agenda and would not be addressed until a future meeting. She added:
“I feel like they should have spoke to us about it and not be rude and cut us off.”
In a statement to WBIR, Monroe County Schools Director Tim Blankenship characterized what happened with the granola as an “isolated incident.” He said that the bugs were flour mites and didn’t discuss the blackberries at all:
During lunch service on September 4, 2018, we had an incident at Madisonville Middle School where flour mites were discovered in a bag of granola that was still sealed in original packaging and had just been opened at lunch. Only two to three students reported this, and the granola was immediately removed from the serving line. The parents of the students who reported having gotten the granola with mites were notified by the school. The manufacturer of the product was also notified of the situation. We strongly believe this is an isolated incident. Our cafeteria employees have checked all stock to ensure that there are no more affected bags and to prevent any future concerns. The latest health inspection also happened this morning, unrelated to this incident, and the cafeteria received a score of 97. Food safety for our students and our staff is our top priority, and we will continue to monitor all of our procedures and products to make sure everything is handled according to protocol.
According to the News-Sentinel, school officials say the blackberries had been triple-washed before serving them to students and were removed once the bug was discovered.
As frustrated as Shubert may be at the school board’s dismissal of the problem, she’s even more surprised by the way the school handled the issue with the students. While concerned parents pressed for action from the board or department of health, the school gave students an assignment.
Shubert showed the News-Sentinel a photo of an assignment written on the board for students to do after finishing their math work. As an “act of kindness,” they are instructed to “write a letter to the cafeteria ladies,” in which they “use descriptive language” to express their thankfulness.
Though the school described the assignment as “making an effort to be positive,” Shubert wouldn’t agree. The mom who felt ignored in her attempts to find out why there were maggots in her daughter’s lunch has another view of the letter to the lunch ladies. She told the News-Sentinel:
“It’s like they are bullying our kids.”
Shubert told WBIR that, “it feels like I can’t trust the school with my child.” Her daughter is now planning to pack her lunches.