The Omaha Public School District gets a passing grade when it comes to providing nutritious meals for students.
As schools across America prepare to celebrate National School Lunch Week and childhood obesity rates continue to climb, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine released its eighth School Lunch Report Card since 2001, evaluating meals served by the National School Lunch Program.
OPS received 97 points out of 100. Only one school in the study received a perfect score of 100. That was Pinellas County Schools in Florida. It's a first in the report card's history.
With 12.5 million American children obese and nearly one-quarter of U.S. teenagers suffering diabetes or pre-diabetes, attention is increasingly focused on the importance of improving the healthfulness of school meals. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 makes some of the most significant changes to the NSLP in decades. The legislation mandates that the NSLP begin making school lunches more healthful, but still leaves room for improvement.
The School Lunch Report Card shows a major shift in the healthfulness of school lunches. Many schools now serve fresh fruit, low-fat vegetable side dishes, healthful vegetarian entrées and nondairy beverages on a daily basis.
This is what the report card says specifically about Omaha Public Schools' lunch program:
Omaha Public Schools, which serves more than 50,000 students, inched up from an A to an A+ this year. Students have the option of choosing a vegetarian or vegan option each day and all vegetarian items are clearly marked on the lunch menu. Vegan options include a peanut butter or soy butter and jelly sandwich and chips with black bean salsa. Fresh fruit is available daily as is fruit juice at no extra cost to students. Omaha also offers fresh fruit and low-fat vegetable side dishes such as steamed vegetables daily.
Omaha lunch menus provide nutrition education on topics such as the benefits of vegetables. Students in many schools have the opportunity to participate in a culinary arts program. Omaha participates in a farm-to-school program and some schools have gardens.
Despite its most improved status on the 2008 School Lunch Report Card, rising from a D (66) in 2007 to an A (96) in 2008, Omaha still has room for improvement. The district continues to serve entrées high in fat and cholesterol, including ham and cheese sandwiches, hot dogs and a beef cutlet.