July 25th, 2013
10:30 AM ET

Indian headmistress tied to poisoned lunches arrested

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) - The headmistress of the Indian school that authorities say served toxic lunches, killing 23 students, was arrested Wednesday, police said.

Meena Kumari, 36, was taken into custody on her way to a court where she had gone to surrender herself, police Superintendent Sujeet Kumar told CNN. She will be questioned Wednesday and taken before the court Thursday, he said.

Authorities had been working to track down Kumari, who had been at large since the July 16 incident.

The whereabouts of her husband, who is not named as an accused person in the case, are still not known, Kumar added. Police want to question him in connection with the case.

Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in the school lunch that sickened 25 others in northern India's Bihar state, police said.

Read the full story

Deadly school lunch in India
July 23rd, 2013
11:35 AM ET

Officers hunt down headmistress after Indian school poisoning

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Tom Watkins, CNN

Partna, India (CNN) - A week after an Indian school served toxic food to students, leaving 23 dead, its headmistress remains missing along with her husband, police said Tuesday. A nine-member team of officers has been formed to investigate and track down the principal, Meena Kumari, police superintendent Sujeet Kumar said.

Police presence is heavy in the village in Bihar state, especially around the principal's home.

Authorities have recorded statements from 40 witnesses, including child survivors of the July 16 food poisoning, Kumar said.

Residents went on a rampage a day after the toxic meals were served in the local government school, torching at least four police cars.

In acts of protest, parents of at least three children have buried their kids near the school - one right in front of the building, according to officials.

Police will ensure the headmistress' safety when she resurfaces or is taken into custody for questioning, authorities said.

Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in the school lunch that sickened 25 others on July 16 in northern India's Bihar state, police said.

Read the full story

July 23rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Inside an Indian school kitchen

(CNN) - The Indian government has encouraged more children to attend school by offering free lunches to students. Most are prepared in individual kitchens; they rely on rice provided by the government and other foods that cost only a few cents per student. After dozens of children were sickened or killed by pesticides in school lunch, CNN's Sumnima Udas visited an Indian school kitchen to see how the meals are made, and why they continue to draw more students to classrooms.

Deadly school lunch in India
July 22nd, 2013
09:33 AM ET

Pesticides found in deadly school lunch in India

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Tom Watkins, CNN

Patna, India (CNN) - Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in a free school lunch that killed 23 students and sickened 25 others on Tuesday in northern India's Bihar state, police said Saturday.

Forensic scientists found monocrotophos, an organophosphorus compound used as an insecticide, "in the samples of oil from the container, food remains on the platter and mixture of rice with vegetables in an aluminum utensil," Assistant Director General Ravinder Kumar told reporters in Patna.

Monocrotophos, which is used for agricultural purposes, is toxic to humans.

An administrative inquiry has pointed to negligence by the school headmistress in supervising food preparation for the children, Bihar state's midday meal director R. Lakshamanan told CNN on Friday.

The cook, Manju Devi, was hospitalized after eating the food she prepared, doctors said.

Devi told police that the headmistress, Meena Kumari, did not heed her warning that the mustard oil used to prepare Tuesday's lunch looked and smelled bad and instead insisted that she continue preparing the meal, Lakshmanan said, citing the inquiry report.

Police told CNN that investigators were trying to find Kumari to question her.

The investigation found compromised hygiene and sanitation in the school, which was running from a single-room makeshift building, he added.

Read the full story

 

 

July 19th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

School principal missing after lunch deaths in India

By Harmeet Shah Singh, Sumnima Udas and Ashley Fantz, CNN

Bihar, India (CNN) - A father holds his limp child in his arms, carrying her from the school he trusted to take care of her. A video camera focuses on his face locked in total anguish. Everyone around him is shouting. He goes to the back of an open van and struggles to keep the white blanket he's wrapped around his child's body from slipping as he lays the body down.The mother of a 5-year-old repeatedly calls her daughter's name.

Why aren't you coming back, she pleads.

"Why isn't anyone bringing Dipu back?!"

These moments came in the wake of the deaths of 23 Indian children who were poisoned by school lunches they were given Tuesday, authorities say.

The students, who authorities said were between the ages of 5 and 12, started vomiting soon after their first bite of rice and potatoes at their government primary school in the northern state of Bihar. Some fainted.

Earlier, authorities had said 22 children had died, but on Thursday district magistrate Abhijit Sinha explained that one deceased boy had not been counted in the initial death toll because his father had taken his body without handing it over for autopsy.

Grief and anger so permeate this poverty-stricken community that parents of at least three children have buried their lost ones near the school - one right in front of the building, according to CNN journalists who saw the burial mounds. Sinha told CNN that the burials were acts of protest.

Demonstrations have popped up around the area as people seek answers about how this tragedy could have happened. One video segment showed men apparently attacking a school bus with sticks. Others gathered and held signs.

Students at nearby schools refused to eat.

"I am scared now. ... There is fear in our hearts," one child told CNN sister network CNN-IBN.

Meanwhile, a top federal official said authorities had warned of safety problems with the state's school meal program months ago.

And police told CNN that investigators have been unable to find the headmistress of the school in order to question her.

Authorities have not named the headmistress and her husband, whom they also want to interview, local police chief Sujit Kumar said Thursday.

Read the full story

July 15th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Jeff Bridges: I dream of a United States with 'no kid hungry'

Editor's note: Jeff Bridges has worked for more than 30 years on issues concerning childhood hunger here and abroad. He founded the End Hunger Network in 1983 to organize the entertainment industry around this cause. Since 2010, Jeff has been the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America.

(CNN) - When I was growing up, I had everything I needed. My wonderful parents, Dorothy and Lloyd, made sure we had nutritious food and they taught us where food came from.

I have been blessed in many ways, and my wife, Sue, and I have been fortunate enough to pass that on to our own four daughters. We've never had to worry about how we'd feed our family.

Other families in America are not as fortunate as I have been.

Few Americans realize that the majority of low-income children in this country get most of their nutrition at school. Whether it's the free breakfast, reduced-priced lunch or after-school snacks, these federally funded meal programs provide a critical safety net for families struggling to put food on the table.

However, there is a huge gap in the number of children who could be getting these meals and the number actually accessing them.

Read Bridges' full column

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Filed under: Kids' health • Nutrition • School lunch • Voices
USDA launches Greek yogurt program in schools
Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee will participate in the new National Greek Yogurt Pilot Program.
July 11th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

USDA launches Greek yogurt program in schools

By Brittany Brady, CNN

(CNN) - In addition to the studies of Odysseus and Homer, school kids across the nation could get an additional Greek fix from in their yogurt, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture kicks off its National Greek Yogurt Pilot Program.

Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee will be the first four states to participate in the project, which is a part of the National School Lunch Program for the 2013 – 2014 school year. The USDA announced in January that it would begin the pilot program to test the cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs.

Greek yogurt offers higher nutritional benefits than traditional yogurt with less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose, as well as an increase in protein per ounce. The ballooning demand for the dairy option has created a $2 billion industry.

New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, was particularly happy that his state, the largest producer of yogurt in the nation in 2012, had been chosen as part of the pilot.

“It is a win-win for the state, exposing our students to a nutritional product and expanding the marketplace for Greek yogurt producers and suppliers in New York State,” he said in a press release Tuesday.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog

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Filed under: Kids' health • Nutrition • School lunch • Students
June 5th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Bus driver loses job over Facebook post about hungry student

(CNN) - Haralson County, Georgia, school bus driver Johnny Cook couldn't get the story out of his head: A middle school student told him he hadn't eaten, and had been turned away from the lunch line because he owed 40 cents. Cook wrote about it on Facebook, and the story spread.

Haralson County Superintendent Brett Stanton says it didn't happen that way; the child would have been offered a bagged lunch, Stanton told CNN affiliate WGCL, but he didn't go through the lunch line.

Cook says he still believes the student; the bus driver was fired after he refused to remove the Facebook post and apologize. "I'm proud that I was able to take a stand where others might not have been able to, and that I can maybe, in some little way, cause a change," Cook told WGCL.

It's not the first time a student has reported going without a meal because of school lunch debt; in some cases, they've been told to dump the food they've selected and are given an alternative snack, such as cheese and juice. Middle school students in Attleboro, Massachusetts, were turned away from lunch earlier this year, and about 40 elementary students in Edgewood, Kentucky, went without regular lunch during state testing period because of overdrawn accounts, CNN affiliate WCPO reported.

How should schools handle kids whose lunch accounts are overdrawn? What's your school's policy? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments or on Twitter @CNNschools.

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Filed under: Bus driver • School lunch • Technology
New York school goes all-vegetarian
Students at the Active Learning Elementary School in Queens check out the cafeteria salad bar.
May 8th, 2013
03:30 PM ET

New York school goes all-vegetarian

By Brittany Brady, CNN

(CNN) - Asked which school meals were their favorites, students at a public school in the New York borough of Queens don't say chicken fingers or meatballs. Instead, they name rice and kidney beans, black bean quesadillas or tofu with Chinese noodles.

"Whoever thought they would hear a third-grader saying that they liked tofu and Chinese noodles?" asked Dennis Walcott, New York City schools chancellor.

Walcott was at the Active Learning Elementary School this week to celebrate its move to all-vegetarian meals five days a week. The school of nearly 400 students, from pre-kindergarten to third grade, was founded five years ago on the principle that a healthy lifestyle leads to strong academic achievement.

"We decided on a vision where health and nutrition would be a part of educating the whole child," school principal Bob Groff said.

The school's focus on healthier meals began three years ago when Groff noticed a majority of students were bringing their own vegetarian meals. The school went meatless three days a week about a year and a half ago. It also tested meals on a small group of students, gathering feedback and changing the menu accordingly.

Active Learning's student body may be more accustomed to vegetarian diets than most, with 85% of the students being Asian and another 10% Hispanic, said Margie Feinberg, spokeswoman for the New York Department of Education.

"Rice was a staple of many of their home foods," Groff said of the students.

Read the full story

April 6th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

No noon meal for kids in debt at middle school

By Ben Brumfield, CNN

(CNN) - Sorry, kid. No money, no lunch.

Students at an Attleboro, Massachusetts, middle school went hungry this week, if they had a negative balance on their pre-paid lunch cards.

Five cents of debt was enough for cafeteria employees at the Coehlo Middle School to instruct kids at least one day this week to dump out the food they would have normally eaten, CNN affiliate WJAR in Rhode Island reported.

About 25 children left the lunchroom with empty stomachs, said Whitson's Culinary Group in a statement. The company runs the school's cafeteria.

Parents were appalled. So was the principal. So was Whitson's.

"I told them this is bullying; that's neglect, child abuse," said parent Jo-An Blanchard.

Principal Andrew Boles apologized and blamed the culinary company. "My expectation is that every child, every adult, every parent, every student, every teacher is respected in this building, and that didn't happen yesterday because of Whitson's," he told WJAR.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Middle school • Nutrition • School lunch
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