The number of complaints from parents about school meals has increased by 3.5 times, Izvestia was told in the Popular Front, summing up 2022. Most often they concerned low-quality, spoiled products and unsanitary conditions. Rospotrebnadzor issued about 20,000 orders for the current academic year to eliminate violations in the field of school mealssaid the department. At the same time, the number of schools that received them decreased by seven times in three years. The Ministry of Education denies the growth of discontent and speaks of a reverse trend. The system lacks a single body that would take over such a sensitive social sphere as the nutrition of students, experts say.
Sandwich with mold and povar podshofe
In 2022, the Popular Front hotline received a record number of complaints about the quality and organization of school mealsIzvestia was told in the social movement. Growth, compared with 2021, was estimated there by 3.5 times – from 989 to 3412.
Parents accompany their claims with photographs: one of them shows a cockroach crawling on the table of a school cafeteria in Lipetsk, but a sandwich with green mold in one of the schools in Pervouralsk. “The child has vomiting and diarrhea after such a meal,” the mother laments.
Photo: social networks
At a school in the city of Yasny, Orenburg Region, food fees have increased twice during the year, and the quality of food is only getting worse, one of the parents told the Popular Front. “Butter in sandwiches is replaced with margarine, and instead of a well-balanced lunch, a banana”she said. And the mother of a schoolgirl from Pavlov reported that her daughter had poisoned herself with raw fish at school. “There is just terrible unsanitary conditions, I saw it and was horrified. Please help…” she wrote.
During an on-site inspection in the Engels district of the Saratov region in November last year, a whole bunch of violations were discovered, said the head of the Bureau of Investigation of the Popular Front Valery Alekseev.
– Rat poison in a warehouse with food, cold soups and cereals, unsanitary conditions, for a number of employees, medical records are not displayed in a single register, he listed. “Besides, junior high school portions are smaller than high school portions, and are more expensive. In the menu – products prohibited by food standards, in the refrigerator – food without documents. Not a single school has a cash register and “free” food.
Testing and Punishment
After the inspection, the food supplier for the school in the village of Pridorozhny, Engels district, was brought to administrative responsibility for non-compliance with sanitary norms and rules and improper performance of the terms of the contract. As a result, the director of the school in the village of Pridorozhny, Elena Kostyria, noted that with the advent of a new supplier, children began to be better fed.
Photo: RIA Novosti / Pavel Lisitsyn
– In addition to cereals, casseroles, boiled eggs, and confectionery appeared on the menu. Sausage was replaced with meatballs, the quality of products improved. New furniture and utensils appeared in the dining room,” she told Izvestia.
After checking the Popular Front in one of the schools in the district, the cook was also fired – he came to the workplace with signs of intoxication, said Valery Alekseev.
However, verification does not always immediately lead to a result. In the same Saratov region in the city of Balakovo, at least 12 students of school No. 28, after going to the canteen in March of this year, came down with signs of intestinal poisoning. Three weeks before that, ONF experts visited the canteen of this school and pointed out the non-compliance of the employees of the food unit with SanPin norms.
— There were also questions about the products, their storage. For example, bread and loaves were stored without trays on shelves in an old cupboard, apples were unmarked, dumped on the floor in boxes, – said Natalia Kriventsova, co-chair of the regional headquarters of the ONF. After the poisoning, the verification materials were sent to the regional prosecutor’s office.
Photo: social networks
Since January of this year, the hotline of the ONF has received 335 complaints from parents, said Valery Alekseev, but noted that it is too early to judge the trends of the whole year now – you have to wait for autumn and winter.
Illusion of control
Rospotrebnadzor in the 2022/23 academic year issued about 20 thousand orders to eliminate violations in the field of school meals, reported in the department in response to a request from Izvestia. The number of schools with violations in terms of the quality and safety of the food supplied has decreased seven times in three years, and in terms of inconsistencies in the expiration dates and conditions for transporting products, more than halved.
At the same time, they claim that the number of complaints from parents over the past three years has halved, although the exact number is not called.
The Ministry of Education also announced to Izvestia a twofold reduction in the number of claims. The remaining problems in the department are called point and they are said to most often refer to the quality of school meals and the special needs of schoolchildren for certain meals.
Photo: RIA Novosti / Pavel Lisitsyn
At the same time, dissatisfied remain. They mainly complain about small portions, tasteless and cold food, too short breaks and even the lack of an individual menu, Rospotrebnadzor reported. They pointed out the importance of parental control over the quality of school meals, which made it possible to reduce the number of applications.
But the All-Russian Society for the Protection of the Rights of Consumers of Educational Services does not fully agree with this.
– The marriage commission (commission of public control) is, in fact, Rospotrebnadzor within the framework of the school, it has great powers. But in practice, they turn into a fiction. As a rule, schools include loyal parents in such commissions, who either do not participate in anything, or sign the protocol without looking, – Viktor Panin, chairman of the society, told Izvestia.
The topics of appeals to the Popular Front were distributed as follows: 34% were complaints that the food in the school cafeteria was tasteless, has an unpleasant smell, appearance and color or is made from poor quality products. 18% – for poor menu composition, 17% – for poor catering (there is no information about the menu or it does not match the real dishes). At the same time, 40% of all complaints contain references to the fact that food is served cold, the ONF emphasized.
Photo: RIA Novosti / Alexander Kryazhev
There are almost no complaints about the complete absence of hot meals – the regions coped with this task, believed in the organization. To date coverage of hot meals for students in grades 1-4 in Russia is 99.8%, confirmed by Rospotrebnadzor.
Looking for a center
It is incorrect to compare regions by the number of complaints, the number of schoolchildren living there varies greatly, Valery Alekseev believes.
– Bursts of complaints appear when resonant poisonings occur, as, for example, in Krasnoyarsk. And concerned parents are beginning to look for means of influencing the school cafeteria, he said.
The number of complaints is only growing from year to year, this year and last year were especially “fruitful” for them, confirmed by Viktor Panin. The moratorium on inspections played a role in this, he believes. Supervisory authorities cannot check all schools purely physically, and schools have time to prepare well for scheduled inspections, he thinks.
“As a result, we often come with an inspection and identify global violations, but it turns out that Rospotrebnadzor was already here a week before and did not find anything special,” the expert said.
Photo: RIA Novosti / Kirill Braga
In his opinion, an independent interdepartmental body created at the government level with representation in the regions could solve the problem. It must include specially trained experts who would continuously monitor the situation in every, even the most remote rural school.
Vladimir Chernigov, president of the ANO Institute of Sectoral Nutrition, agrees with this. From his point of view, the country urgently needs a single specialized body that consolidates all components of the process.
— Many mistakenly think that it will be a single operator that will monopolize the market and feed the entire country. No, it should be a center of competence and expertise, where any region could turn to with their problems,” the expert said.
At the same time, school canteens are not Michelin-starred restaurants; they have much more economic problems than ordinary commercial catering. This is a long downtime during the holidays, and an acute shortage of personnel. Therefore, school catering needs to be helped, and not only controlled and punished, noted Vladimir Chernigov.