We often talk about helping kids eat better and what role schools and parents should play in that process. Well the internet is buzzing about a public school in Chicago where the principal said kids had to buy the school lunch, assuming it would be healthier than anything they brought from home.
I’ve read multiple versions of the story and here are some facts and quotes that strike me as the most interesting:
1. The no-sack lunch rule has been in place for six years so why is everyone just noticing it now? Where has the uproar been for six years?
2. Another Chicago school handles it a different way – they just take junk food away from the kids and return it at the end of the day. (I think this would be an administrative nightmare for the teachers or lunchroom ladies. Can you imagine returning the food: “No! That’s my Twinkie!”)
3. This point was made in The Chicago Tribune story:
“This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” said J. Justin Wilson, 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.”
“For many CPS parents, the idea of forbidding home-packed lunches would be unthinkable. If their children do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals, such a policy would require them to pay $2.25 a day for food they don’t necessarily like.”
“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.”
“But Susan Rubin, a nutritionist and founder of the Better School Food program, said lunches offered by large food providers like Chartwells Thompson are not necessarily more nutritious. …”
“It’s rare that I see a school, especially a public school, that actually serves food that’s good,” she told AOL News in a phone interview today. ‘I get physically sick just looking at it, because it makes me sick that kids are eating this processed crap.’ “
At our new school, I thought they were going to be much stricter about what parents could send in for snacks and lunches. Their publications say it’s supposed to whole grain and non-sugar. I was glad they were setting the bar high, but when I visit the cafeteria I don’t see that many people sticking to it.
I do think that our new school serves far less sweets at school parties. I can’t decide if it’s because this community is pretty health focused. (The school is right next to the Y and everyone works out. All the ladies are in shape!) Or if it’s because the parties are just smaller and more focused on activity rather than food here. Walsh’s winter holiday party was held outdoors and consisted of playing running games. The kids had a great time and there wasn’t a sugar cookie in sight. Rose’s party had literally one cookie for each kid and that was it. In Gwinnett the school parties were far more elaborate and the food usually included several sweets.
So what do you make of the Chicago controversy? Can a public school tell parents they can’t send in lunch? What would you do if your school made this rule?
How does your school handle junk food? If they bring it, it’s theirs? Do they request only healthy snacks? What about school parties?
– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania