PPS food service provider responds to moldy food claims, say hot meals are on the way next week

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Public Schools food service provider is defending itself after the Peoria Federation of Teachers posted pictures on social media of moldy food allegedly served to students.

The teacher’s union shared photos on Facebook of moldy cheese and buns from the past few days and has been advocating for “better lunches” for weeks.

Mark Streamer, Food Services General Manager for Peoria Public Schools and Sodexo, said these photos and additional criticism of the lunches have stricken a chord with those preparing the meals.

“I can tell you that our ladies and gentlemen out in the cafeteria are quite upset with what is out there on social media,” Streamer said.

Streamer said they hinge on food safety and launch an investigation with any food complaint they receive. While specifically speaking on the moldy cheese sticks photos, he said they practice a system called HAACP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) which focuses on keeping records on time and temperature for food.

“The cheese stick is not a representation of what we served that day,” Streamer said. “It’s not what they packed, I cannot in my wildest dreams imagine someone picking something up and putting that in a bag. I can’t explain how it got in that bag, but it was not done by our food service staff.”

He said he understands the fatigue of repetitive lunches. He said they don’t have a lot of options on what they can do safely that’s within the United States Department of Agriculture’s guidelines.

“When this all started and our lives all changed back in March, the direction I was given was ‘you’re going to do all cold, we’re going to do in the classroom’,” Streamer said. “I said ‘give it three weeks and people are going to start getting bored with it. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary.”

However, Streamer said hot meals are on the horizon next week as students transition back into a full-week schedule. He said he’s speaking with local principals to format a way for all of the district’s schools to have an optional menu in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to have a limited menu, but it will be hot, cold, peanut butter and jelly, things off the salad bar, two kinds of milk instead of just white milk,” Streamer said.

He also said he recommended bringing a community advisory committee to Peoria Public Schools which he hopes will allow more input from the public.

“It is a natural occurrence that people become more acclimated and included feeling like they can make a difference,” Streamer said. “It is a time where we can share ideas, what are the goals, what do we want for our kids.”

WMBD reached out to the Peoria Federation of Teachers and did not immediately hear back.

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