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School Prohibits All Food From Home, Requires Kids to Buy Cafeteria Lunch

Cafeteria

What is a school's role in ensuring its students eat well at lunch?

The Little Village Academy in Chicago takes healthy school lunches very seriously. Like, very seriously.

So seriously, in fact, that in order to ensure the students there are on the right nutritional track, the school tells them what they can eat. And that they can’t bring lunch from home. According to the principal, the point is to ensure a measure of protection for the students.

The policy of requiring kids to buy their lunch in the cafeteria exclusively was created after the principal watched kids bring soda and chips for lunch. According to Chicago Public School policy, the decision to require kids to buy their lunch at school is left to the judgment of each principal.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” said Principal Elsa Carmona to the Chicago Tribune. “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.”

One of the side affects of the requirement, however, is that some kids simply don’t buy or throw away their lunch and go hungry because they think the school food “tastes bad.”

“Some of the kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast,” said Little Village parent Erica Martinez to the newspaper. “So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.”

Besides not all kids being a fan of cafeteria food, not everyone is happy with the control the school has taken over the kids and their eating habits.

“This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” said J. Justin Wilson to the newspaper, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, which is partially funded by the food industry. “Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?” Wilson said. “This is the perfect illustration of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again. Some parents may want to pack a gluten-free meal for a child, and others may have no problem with a child enjoying soda.”

This is a tough issue, I think. I’m all for healthy lunches, but the idea that kids are going hungry because they don’t like what they’re being forced to choose from at school doesn’t sit well with me. How is a kid with an empty stomach going to perform socially and academically after lunch? And what about families who don’t qualify for free or reduced-priced meals? A couple of dollars a day can add up quickly for some families who already struggle financially.

On the other hand, I admire that this school is actually doing something concrete to ensure their students eat healthy lunches. But instead of going to such an extreme, perhaps they should just consider banning soda, saturated fats or devil foods like Lunchables. But to require families to spend a set amount of money to feed their children what the school says is healthy seems a little draconian.

Do you think this school is doing a good or bad thing by forbidding brown bags in lieu of supposedly healthy cafeteria lunches?

Image: Creative Commons

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