Prince George's County Public Schools CEO defends quality of school lunches

- It is National School Lunch Week and the head of Prince George’s County Public Schools got involved and stopped by to have lunch with students at a middle school in Bowie.

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell sat down for a meal with students at Benjamin Tasker Middle School and he invited FOX 5 along.

The visit is part of National School Lunch Week and those selected to sit with him were happy with their meals.

FOX 5 has aired several reports about student complaints over the quality of the school lunches. Students have been posting on social media about food that look unappetizing or appear to show mold.

School officials said they have yet to verify whether photos posted this week are in fact from county schools. But the images are already getting attention.

“I’m glad it’s growing because other kids from other counties that are eating good lunch, they are like, ‘Wow, what are these kids eating?’” one student told us.

Maxwell said his staff is working to determine where each photo came from and whether there is in fact a problem.

In the past few weeks, at least one case of moldy bread has been confirmed.

“It should not have been served and we have made that clear and we’ve taken the actions that we think will make sure that doesn't happen again,” said Maxwell.

He said federal guidelines calling for fewer preservatives and less salt have made the food healthier, but it has also led to some adjustments for staff.

“You used to be able to get bread and have it delivered and lasted for a long time because of the preservatives,” Maxwell said. “My assumption is that we have some shorter cycles of delivery. We probably have some storage issues that are a little bit different.”

The county has more than 128,000 students and many of them are fed multiple times a day.

“The percentages, you see ten pictures or you see 12 pictures, they represent a really, really tiny percentage of the number of meals, the number of items that we serve,” said Maxwell.

Students we spoke with at random outside of Bowie High School all seemed to think the quality of food could be better.

“I've seen mold on a burger once,” said one student.

“You go to eat the chicken patty and it's like hollowed out,” one student complained.

“The pizza, half of it was cooked and the other half wasn't,” recalled another student. “I asked to get another one and they were like, ‘No, you have to pay for this and get out of line.’”

“I wish I could say 100 percent, but the absolutely vast majority of meals we serve are good, nutritious, there's no issues with them,” said Maxwell.

I sampled turkey lasagna, French fries and a fruit cup today. It wasn't five-star restaurant quality, but typical cafeteria food.

A full serving of lunch costs student $3 dollars daily. For any students out there with complaints about the food, continue to send them to Dr. Maxwell and provide information that includes the school where it come from and the date it was served.

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