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Disgusting school lunch photos cause outrage at NJ high school over $5 million school lunch program

‘Disgusting’ New Jersey high school cheesesteak and a mystery patty forces state to rethink its $5m school lunch program

  • Photos showing the disgusting lunch that was served at a New Jersey high school last week have people outraged
  • The photos of what was supposed to be a chicken cheesesteak and mystery brown loaf went viral after a parent and teacher shared them online
  • School district administrators agreed the meals were ‘awful’ 
  • Paterson Board of Education President Kenneth Simmons admitted the meals were ‘disgusting’ and said ‘I wouldn’t serve my children that’
  • The school’s cafeteria workers have been retrained but a committee was also considering outsourcing the meals going forward 
  • Nearly 95% of students in the district qualify for a free or reduced lunch which serves as the only hot meal they enjoy all day, according to administrators 


Photos of lunch options at Paterson International High School in New Jersey have left teachers and parents disgusted as the district promises to overhaul its $5 million food program.  

Zellie Thomas, a teacher in the district, posted photos of the inedible meals to Twitter on Friday captioned: ‘Our kinds deserve better.’ 

One photo shows what is supposed to be a chicken cheesesteak, the other shows a mysterious brown loaf that looks that no one can figure out what it is supposed to be.  

Darcell Medley-Stokes, who first shared the photos to her social media account, said her child took the photos at two separate lunch breaks at the public school last week to show how terrible the meals are.

This photo of the mysterious loaf served to high school students in New Jersey highlighted the inedible meals the school has been serving

These photos show the chicken ‘cheesesteak’ and mystery loaf that were served to students at Paterson International High School in New Jersey last week

Photos of the school lunch served were taken by a student Tuesday and Wednesday last week and shared to their mother's social media account. Local teacher Zellie Thomas tweeted out the photos of the disgusting meals insisting 'Our kids deserve better'

Photos of the school lunch served were taken by a student Tuesday and Wednesday last week and shared to their mother’s social media account. Local teacher Zellie Thomas tweeted out the photos of the disgusting meals insisting ‘Our kids deserve better’

‘Would you eat this? Would you serve this to your children? If the answer is ‘no,’ then why serve it to our children?’ Superintendent Eileen Shafer said, according to the Patterson Press

‘Our students deserve a nutritious meal like every other child in this country. We will not tolerate this.’ 

After seeing the photos, Paterson Board of Education President Kenneth Simmons answered Shafer’s question, ‘I wouldn’t serve my children that.’ 

‘It’s just disgusting,’ Simmons told PIX11. ‘There’s just no other reaction.’ 

But an alumni of the high school told ABC 7 that children in the school district have been served unacceptable meals for years.  

Veronica Aponte was part of the Paterson International High School Class of 2019. She remembered the terrible lunch options, ‘It was just awful.’

‘Like things that were supposed to be cold, they were lukewarm – biting into a chicken nugget you shouldn’t be seeing pink or red,’ she said. 

School board member Vincent Arrington believes the quality of the meals being served to Patterson students is unacceptable and noted that ‘For a lot of our kids, the lunch they get in school is the only hot meal they get all day.’ 

The school district took notice and promised to make changes to the $5 million school lunch program. An estimated 95% of students in the district qualify for a free or reduced lunch

The school district took notice and promised to make changes to the $5 million school lunch program. An estimated 95% of students in the district qualify for a free or reduced lunch

Paterson Board of Education President Kenneth Simmons admitted that he would not feed his children the meals that the school was serving and agreed that something needed to be done

Paterson Board of Education President Kenneth Simmons admitted that he would not feed his children the meals that the school was serving and agreed that something needed to be done

Finally school administrators are taking notice and promising a change to the $5 million school lunch program in a district where about 95% of students qualify for a free or reduced lunch. 

‘It may cost us more money, but I don’t think finances is something that needs to be the key factor,’ Simmons said. 

He scheduled the issue to be discussed at committee meeting on Wednesday.   

District food service employees went to the high school after the photos went viral and confirmed that the meals pictured were improperly cooked and served by district employees.

Paul Brubaker, a district spokesperson, stated that, ‘The cafeteria staff did not use the cheesesteak recipe as they were trained to do.’ He confirmed that the cafeteria staff have been retrained. 

While the staff has been retrained, the district was also considering outsourcing the meals from a vendor but noted that the process would take some time to sort out. 

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