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Moldy hot dogs, human hair and other cafeteria nightmares prompt students to boycott school lunches

A hot dog from Farmington High School. (Courtesy of Joe Miano)

A Connecticut high school cafeteria is the scene of a massive food fight. On one side is Chartwells, a national food service company that supplies Farmington High School with its lunches. On the other side is the high school’s increasingly “hangry” student body, whose members launched a school-lunch boycott on Monday.

Their issue with Chartwells, as it turns out, is pretty straightforward.

“The food is awful,” Christy Rosario, a 17-year-old Farmington senior, told The Post. “I try to avoid it at all costs.”

“Awful,” according to Rosario and other student organizers behind the boycott, doesn’t mean a tad bland or a bit too spicy. Since Chartwells replaced the district’s in-house meal program in 2012, according to the students, it has meant an increasingly unpalatable menu, with food that sometimes features mold, human hair, dangerously undercooked meats, insects and portion sizes fit for a small, starving child.

Although Rosario said students have been upset about the food quality for several years, in recent weeks they began documenting the most egregious food infractions with their phones and posting them on Facebook and Twitter.

Some of the menu items (as documented by Farmington student Joe Miano, who sent the images to The Post) include fruit a la insect:


And this:

And this:

In a statement, Tom O’Donnell, the regional director of Chartwells K12, told “We stand by our food quality and have maintained a strong record with the health department. We are aware of the complaints shared on social media and are working to verify them, and will respond with appropriate action if they are deemed credible.”

Last week, in advance of the boycott, students documented some of their complaints about the Chartwells food to the local Fox affiliate.

“I know a lot of students have found hairs in their food,” said Eugnie Chen, a Farmington senior.

Freshman Sam Grabowski-Clark told the station that he brings his own lunch to school but worries about his friends.

“Just really poor quality food that I wouldn’t even feed a dog,” he said.

A Facebook page dedicated to the Chartwells boycott had more than 550 members. In addition to trading horror stories and stomach-churning food photography, members of the group laid out their demands with a mission statement devoid of subtlety:

“One day (a week, if possible) we won’t buy from them until they stop serving us food that tastes bad and is obviously unhealthy and unsanitary. Make them lose a little money and waste some food like they do when they throw students food out right in front of their faces if they can’t afford it.”

Other demands include lower costs for meals, higher quality ingredients, food labels that identify allergens and a greater respect for students.

Responding to The Post’s questions about the student boycott, a spokesman for district superintendent Kathleen C. Greider said in statement: “The Farmington school district works closely with Chartwells to provide healthy, nutritious and appealing meals to students that meet national dietary guidelines. These guidelines changed the year that Chartwells joined the Farmington school district.

“Even with these changes, we are currently experiencing very favorable participation levels in our lunch program, especially at the high school level. Students are provided a significant number of food options at the high school level, and Chartwells strives to continuously enhance these options. In fact, Chartwells sends out periodic surveys to determine strengths, needs and to determine ways to deliver food options that are locally grown, fresh and nutritious.”

Organizers said they expect the boycott to continue Wednesday, when students return to class after a professional development day. Those who bypass the boycott, opting for the lunch menu instead, will have a variety of options to choose from, including: “Spicy Marinara & Beef Meatballs,” “Chicken Tender Strips w/Biscuit,” “Veggie Lovers’ Pizza” — and, of course, hot dogs.