Nationwide, schools are adjusting to new nutrition guidelines for school lunches. That's true at Omaha schools, too. One student says too often, she and her friends are walking away from lunch hungry.
This was a typical school lunch: spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic or cheese bread, a cup of fruit and a cup of milk. This year, because of new federal guidelines, you can't include the bread because the grain is already included in the spaghetti, which means there is less product for students to eat. However, the district must meet weekly calorie amounts and for high schoolers that’s 750 to 850.
On a three-day weekend, you might expect to find Central High School freshman Mackenzie Lamb sleeping in, flipping on a movie or just killing time with friends, but Lamb's moral compass brought her to the corner of initiative and determination drive, literally led by a gut feeling.
“I used to go to OPS when I was in elementary school. We used to have a salad bar and we used to have really good food. I was never really hungry after lunch. Now, I'm always hungry.”
So Lamb created a Facebook group and started a petition, organizing a "Pack Your Own Lunch Day,” fed up with the status quo of the meat and potatoes at school to make a change.
“To get better food because we started off, we get one main dish, sometimes we get a side, but that is very occasional.” And that, Lamb says, has left her and her classmates hungry. “It kind of sucks. Most people go to the vending machines and just buy junk food again and some people eat in class, the teachers don't like that, then you get a detention."
Now, she wants their message heard. “I would ask them to give us better food and more portions for our dollar."
Omaha Public Schools Director of Nutrition Services Tammy Yarmon explains the district is working with a new meal pattern plan based on federal requirements. High schoolers, like Lamb, are required to eat between 750 and 850 calories a week. “I would like to tell everybody is that it is a huge puzzle and it's going to take time for us to tweak it to get it in the right, the right pieces to fit together so the kids like it."
Mackenize says they plan on another “Pack Your Own Lunch Day” for Monday.