Yesterday suspiciously perky cooking celebrity Rachael Ray, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn and other government officials held a press event at P.S. 89/I.S. 289 in Tribeca to preview a new menu that Ray created for NYC public schools. On Thursday, 600,000 students, from kindergartners to 12th graders, will have the option to sample the menu Ray developed: whole-wheat flatbread with roasted chicken, a ratatouille-style stew with beans, and corn salad on top. (Plus a side of broccoli.) But yesterday there was also a side of cockroach!
The roach was spotted racing across a countertop just feet from where Ray was holding forth about healthy food; minutes later children would dig into her special "sizzling soft tacos." Yum-o no! One of Ray's flacks quickly swatted the roach away, and Ray tells the Daily News, "I did not see that. It's unfortunate if there was [a bug]. I think that these schools strive to be the best across the board; I'm sure that includes cleanliness." When asked about the roach, Gillibrand said, "You have to talk to the Department of Ed about that."
But how was the food? 11-year-old Coby Levinson declared, "It just doesn't taste like the normal cafeteria food. It tastes better." The Times was a bit more critical, reporting that "the plating is a bit confusing: It’s supposed to be a 'taco,' but the boned chicken means that you can’t actually bite into it like a taco. Instead, the chicken and other ingredients just sit on the flatbread." Still, the Times found it ultimately "surprisingly good."
Ray assembled the recipe using items already on the public school ingredients list, and school cafeterias are free to use it as they please. Senator Gillibrand is pushing to improve school nutrition by updating the Child Nutrition Act; her proposals include a ban on trans fats in cafeteria kitchens across the country, an increase to the federal reimbursement rate of food by 70 cents per meal, and more federal oversight of school cafeterias in general. Uncle Sam is coming for you, roaches!