Say goodbye to mom’s homemade sandwich and hello to whatever the school feels like serving your child. A Chicago public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago’s Westside, has banned their students from bringing in a lunch packed from home. The students, unless they have a medical excuse, are REQUIRED to eat the food served in the school’s cafeteria.
Allegedly the students at this Chicago school were bringing in junk for lunch-soda and chips. No question the principal behind this controversial decision is well-intentioned; trying to “protect the students from their own unhealthful food choices”. Many schools are making big strides in improving their menus by adding whole grains, fruits and vegetables. However, most of those meals are still far from perfect.
There are days when my kids beg and plead to have the school lunch and they usually win. They view it as a special treat. Most days my kids pack their own lunch in the morning consisting of some combination of a sandwich, fruit, carrots, graham crackers and/or yogurt.
There are many kids that do eat the lunch provided by their school every day. And that’s a choice they have made with their family –which is just fine.
So many children have dietary restrictions -allergies to wheat, soy, nuts, milk and eggs. Maybe a family is vegetarian or vegan. It would be interesting to hear how the school plans to handle these issues. Maybe all of these children will need a doctor’s note to opt out of the mandatory hot lunch program. Who would be left to partake in the school lunch?
What’s at issue here is the government (school officials) taking over the role of parent. By requiring the children to eat school meals the school is conveying to the parents that the parents are no longer qualified to do their job (providing nutritional meals for their children) and the school needs to come in and rescue the children.
It is a fundamental right as a parent to choose food for your children and help guide your child in his/her food choices.
Yes, it might be true that some parents aren’t doing a stellar job on the nutritional front. But does the government have the right to step in and dictate what a child is eating?
There is no question that many children are eating too many processed foods and not getting enough nutrition from their food. Childhood obesity is at all all-time high- between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese.
But banning home-packed lunches isn’t going to resolve that issue. Those same kids that are eating the fine dining served at their school could be going home to a big bowl of ice cream and some Doritos for dinner.
Also, I wonder how many calories are in just one of those school meals. I’m thinking many more than my son’s sandwich, yogurt, organic apple and two cookies.
How about taking a different approach-educating families about nutrition and helping them make good food choices for their family? Open up forums for discussion and support. Teach about the importance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, buying local and balancing meals. This is a core issue and the solution needs to begin and stay with the families.
And that “food” on the school menu-calories aside- someone tell me that the food these kids will be eating isn’t processed crap. What’s that teaching our children and families?
For the record, I would move if my school district imposed this totalitarian decision on our family.
[Top photo used under Creative Commons from Steven Depolo/Flickr]
Thank you to Sweet Greens for sharing this story and inspiring me to put in my own two cents.