NYC’s ex-school food chief convicted in bribery case tied to icky chicken tenders

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. bribery / ˈbraɪ bə ri / (n.) – the crime of giving someone money or something that's valuable, often illegally, to persuade him/her to do something

    Giving people money for them to vote for you is bribery.

  2. delve into (something) / dɛlv ˈɪn tu / (phrasal v.) – to examine something carefully or in a detailed way to find out more information about someone/something

    The police promised to delve into the details of the case to find the suspect.

  3. stomach-churning / ˈstʌm ək tʃɜr nɪŋ / (adj.) – relating to something disgusting that makes someone feel sick

    The graphic scenes in the movie were so stomach-churning that many viewers had to close their eyes or look away.

  4. substandard / sʌbˈstæn dərd / (adj.) – below standard, low quality

    The bridge was easily destroyed by the flood due to its substandard materials.

  5. hit a snag / hɪt ə snæg / (idiom) – to experience an issue, trouble, or obstacle

    We hit a snag on our way here. Our car broke down on the road.


Read the text below.

A man who oversaw food service for New York City schools was convicted in a bribery case that picked apart how chicken tenders riddled with bone and bits of metal were served for months in the nation’s biggest public school system.

Former city Department of Education official Eric Goldstein and three men who founded a school food vendor — Blaine Iler, Michael Turley and Brian Twomey — were found guilty of bribery, conspiracy and other charges after a monthlong trial.

It delved into school menus, from yogurt parfait to ravioli. And the trial gave jurors a stomach-churning look at what some students and school staffers encountered when a brand called Chickentopia turned up on their plates in 2016 and 2017.

“Our children depended on nutritious meals served in schools and, instead, got substandard food products containing pieces of plastic, metal and bones,” Brooklyn-based U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

As head of the school system’s Office of School Support Services from 2008 to 2018, Goldstein oversaw functions including the food service operation, known as SchoolFood. Iler, Twomey and Turley had a company, SOMMA Food Group, with its eye on the New York City school system.

Around the same time, the three men and Goldstein formed another company to import grass-fed beef. Prosecutors argued that the venture amounted to a conduit for paying Goldstein off.

According to prosecutors, Iler, Turley and Twomey paid thousands of dollars to Goldstein and his divorce lawyer. Meanwhile, Goldstein helped ensure that the school system bought Chickentopia items and other SOMMA products, sometimes on a fast track.

Then, in September 2016, SOMMA hit a snag: A school system employee choked on a bone in a supposedly boneless Chickentopia chicken tender and needed the Heimlich maneuver, according to documents presented at the trial. For a time, the schools stopped serving the company’s chicken tenders.

They were allowed back two months later — a day after the SOMMA founders agreed to pay Goldstein $66,670 and gave him their shares of the beef business. Goldstein then signed off on reintroducing Chickentopia products, prosecutors said.

The tenders reappeared. So did complaints about foreign objects in them. SchoolFood ultimately ditched SOMMA products in April 2017, according to prosecutors.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Foreign objects were found in chicken tenders that were served in school lunches at New York schools. How would you feel if you had a young family member studying in one of the affected schools? Discuss.
  • What should be the punishment for those who are involved in serving substandard food products? Why? What do you think the government should do to prevent this from happening again? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Is it necessary for public schools to have a school lunch program? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • If you were part of a team responsible for managing a school’s lunch program, what factors would you take into consideration during the meal planning process (ex. food safety and quality, nutritional value)? Why? Discuss.