To Fight Obesity, School Bans Lunches From Home

A Chicago school has banned bag lunches because theoretically, school lunch is healthier than what parents pack for their children. Naturally, parents are up in arms over the accusation that the school is better at feeding their children than they are.

At Little Village Academy, Principal Elsa Carmona created the policy years ago, after noticing that children regularly bring "bottles of soda and flaming hot chips" for lunch. She tells the Chicago Tribune:

"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school ... It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."

For many students, the policy means they simply don't eat lunch. The school district increased the nutritional quality of its meals last year, but this led to students buying fewer meals. A Tribune reporter noticed many students at Little Village took lunch, but threw it out uneaten. It's unclear if this reflects on the taste, or the stubbornness of a child confronted with healthier food.

While some say the measure infringes on a parent's right to feed their child what they want, others are just upset about the cost. Children who don't qualify for free or reduced-price lunches have to pay $2.25 for the meals. From the Tribune:

"We don't spend anywhere close to that on my son's daily intake of a sandwich (lovingly cut into the shape of a Star Wars ship), Goldfish crackers and milk," education policy professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach wrote in an email. Her son attends Nettelhorst Elementary School in Lakeview. "Not only would mandatory school lunches worsen the dietary quality of most kids' lunches at Nettelhorst, but it would also cost more out of pocket to most parents! There is no chance the parents would stand for that."

Principal Carmona claims the policy isn't that unusual, but Little Village may be the first to totally ban lunches from home. Though, as The Lookout blog reports, other principals across the country have banned certain foods in an effort to fight the obesity epidemic.

Alabama parents protested a school's rule that barred students from bringing any drinks from home, as ice water was provided at lunch. East Syracuse, New York schools have outlawed cupcakes and other desserts. And schools around the country have kicked out chocolate milk and soda vending machines. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin even showed up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with dozens of cookies to express her disdain for a debate in the state about recommending teachers limit the number of times per month the sugary treats are eaten in classroom birthday celebrations.

New government regulations aim to make school lunches healthier, but there may be an unintended fight in the campaign against childhood obesity: Convincing parents to trust that the lunches supplied by schools truly are better for their kids.

Chicago School Bans Some Lunches Brought From Home [Chicago Tribune]
Chicago School Bans Homemade Lunches, The Latest In National Food Fight [The Lookout]

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