LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — Social media pictures of pathetic school lunches are putting the state's largest school district in a bind. The Little Rock School District is caught between the difficult task of feeding thousands of kids with diverse tastes and parents who want to see just a little more effort put into school lunch.
“I was upset. I was in shock and I was like that can't be all the food you were given today,” Lois Clark said.
She shared a photo her daughter sent her of a school lunch at Parkview High last week. The shot showed one slice of meat, a small piece of cornbread and a cup of sweet potatoes.
“It wasn't appealing. It looks like prison food,” Clark said.
Several thousand social media shares later, Parkview is lit up over the lunches served every day with opinions from students running the gamut.
“I was like ‘that's all we're getting today for lunch?’” senior Cedric Morton said. “I ate it, but next [class] it affected me because I was taking a test and I was still kind of hungry.”
“It was just heart-wrenching because I love Parkview and I've been here since my ninth-grade year,” junior Spencer Campbell said. “To see us portrayed in such a dark dim light just really heart my soul.”
“They offer more than that,” junior Kavon McElwee said. “It was just some people that didn't want to get more than what was offered.”
That opinion drew an Amen from the district’s director of nutrition as she spoke with students on Thursday. Stephanie Hynes has been steadily answering calls and emails since the pictures went viral.
“Mostly I would say uninformed people not realizing the guidelines and the entire menu that was offered and that the children have a choice,” Hynes said.
Thursday’s menu featured chicken fajitas. They are popular. The plate comes with black beans and corn.
Kids can choose not to take the beans or other vegetables, and when they do that, their plates can look pretty sparse. Servers can't give double portions and lots of fattier options have been cut out of menus by the USGA, the federal agency that oversees school lunch programs.
Hynes knows many kids and parents don't know the options they do offer.
“We definitely could do a better job messaging,” she said. “Putting the rules out there so that parents understand the menus are available online and they can download the app.”
Hynes said they are planning a student task force to get feedback from kids and parents on how to improve food offerings. The input will come ahead of contract renewals due for the next school year.
But this message going back to the school system from parents like Clark is being heard loud and clear.
"I expect them to at least put a little bit more thought and effort into the meals when preparing them,” Clark said.