Despite high number of hungry kids OPS continues to waste food

Dominick Bartels, News Writer

Hunger – a feeling all too common amongst students in Omaha Public schools, as 74% of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch. That being said, the district continues to waste food. “We can’t send food home with students due to safety concerns,” said Tamara Yarmon, the Director of Nutrition Services in OPS.

Instead of sending food home with students directly, OPS attempts to get the most out of their extra food by donating extra food to homeless shelters at holiday breaks and the end of the school year.

“The shelters do not want food which is not handled properly and could possibly make their clients ill. The Douglas county Health Department has regulation which we have to follow,” Yarmon said.

Students at Omaha North have strong opinions regarding food waste.

Julia Haas, 10, thinks that the whole food waste is “stupid” and that the district should make better use of leftover food.

Haas says, “I think that there is so much food waste because the food they serve us doesn’t even look edible. Its unpleasing to students and that’s why there’s so much food waste.”

“I think that we should take the food that is left over… and package it up and give it to the homeless.” Said Morgan Peterson, 10.

The cafeteria manager at Omaha North High stated that left over food can be served the following day. However, after that, it must be thrown away.

“The only reason food should be thrown away is because it has been reheated again, or the type of food that doesn’t reheat well (fish, fries),” stated Yarmon.

During the summer, the district provides free meals to any child who go to schools with a 50% or more free and reduced lunch population. The past summer, the district provided food to kids at over 60 sites.

Yarmon said that during the summer and after school, the schools and community groups, like the Collective for Youth, offer tutoring, computer access, and wellness classes.

However, OPS still wastes food through the lunch detention sack lunch program.

At Omaha North, students who serve lunch detentions are provided with a sack lunch. If there are more sack lunches than students, the remaining sack lunches are thrown away.

“Each school has procedures for meals for detention. Some schools may utilize the sack lunch option and some schools may allow students to go through the serving line and take food to the room… We encourage staff to order the number of meals they need for the number of students in the (detention),” Yarmon said.

Yarman said that once the sack lunches leave the cafeteria, extra sack lunches must be thrown away since the cafeteria staff can’t guarantee that the food is still safe unless it is, “…picked up by District staff and delivered immediately to the students.”