'Unacceptable:' Bay Area school district admits serving rotten, moldy produce to kids on lunch program

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A Santa Rosa mom claims the school lunches being sent home during the coronavirus pandemic are not safe to eat and now the school district is apologizing for the error.

Rotten apples and moldy carrot. Jessica Farwell says that's what she picked up from the Santa Rosa Unified School District's lunch program.

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"I'm afraid for the safety of my children's food," said Farwell. "That puts us in a difficult position as a family because we are struggling. It's a difficult year we cannot easily replace those items."

Farwell and her husband are both out of work due to COVID-19. 7-year-old Asher and 4-year-old Eliana both qualified for the school lunch program. Farwell is also mom to 2-month-old Aurora. Prior to COVID-19, she worked in the food and beverage industry.

"Food safety is so important we would never allow for this in a restaurant that I would work in and it's heartbreaking to consider that someone would allow for this for our children," said Farwell.

Ed Burke is the schools' Child Nutrition Services Director.

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"We find that this is unacceptable and we have to do better. We want to extend our apologies to the parent and the community at large," said Burke.

Burke says when Farwell contacted the school district they immediately began an inspection. School officials discovered pallets of produce coming up on its use by date were intermingled with fresh produce.

"Given the condition of the items in the photo it is very reasonable to presume that someone could see it and say this is not okay and set it aside," said Burke.

That however, did not happen. Burke says they are providing additional training to staff and doing additional spot checks.

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"We feel confident that we can prevent this from happening at any point in the future," said Burke.

Farwell says in the past she's thrown out pre-packaged food items that looked to be frozen, thawed and refrozen. As well as fresh prepared items that didn't smell fresh.

"After it happened so many times in a row it became clear it was a systemic problem that needed to be addressed," said Farwell.

Burke tells ABC7 News thawed items are never refrozen.

He encourages any Santa Rosa family that receives a questionable lunch to contact the district.

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