School lunches mandatory?

I have seen this floating around Facebook and felt it was a great topic to take on here on my blog! The Chicago Tribune posted an article Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home.

In the article it states "At his public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago's West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria."  My first reaction to this is that's not fair.  My sons are very picky and would not eat 90% of what they serve in a school cafeteria no matter how well balanced the lunches are getting.  I also looked at that statement and thought... ummm what about families who are vegetarian, vegan, kosher?  That is not a medical excuse, but can you say that they have to compromise their choices because the principal has decided to ban lunch from home?  I understand that the meals are monitored by the USDA, and are better than chips and soda, but aren't there better ways than a strict mandate?  Did they try to work with families to improve the food brought in from home?  Did they try to ban specific products, ummm there is no need for children to be bringing soda to school, but what's wrong with chips to go with your sandwich? 

"Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district's food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch." This in itself says a lot! The fact that they even added this to the article says that it maybe a contributing factor.  Is it fair that a random rule make it so the only way your child can eat at school is by buying the mandated school lunch?  Can parents choose to not pay?  I wouldn't want to pay if I knew my sons were just throwing lunch away, and trust me they would.  At Blake's pre-school he has breakfast and lunch, if he does not like what is served, he won't eat.  You can't tell me that will change when he is older.  I don't understand how it is not being fought in a legal avenue.  How can you mandate that I pay:  "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."  First of all,  I can make a healthy lunch that my sons would eat for that money or LESS every day, and it wouldn't end up in the trash.  There are a lot of families who do not qualify for free and reduced lunch who would be challenged to play $2.25 a day per/x number of children to feed or not feed them school lunch.

"At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten."  How is this healthy?  How is it better for students to go with no food than to go with what is brought in from home?  This is a school, do they not know all the research that discusses the impact of food on learning?  Do they not realize that children who are not eating are less likely to succeed in school?  That is why free breakfast and lunch programs are promoted.  They want children who may not have the means to have healthy meals at home to get get meals at school.  But, that doesn't really justify children who would eat lunch made a home to toss the paid school lunch away and eat nothing.

I've worked in school.  I know there is swapping of snacks and that the items I send from home might not be eaten by my child.  I know that they may swap things, but I also know that if I send in healthy items that they will eat and enjoy as well as a snack (chips, cookies, that kind of thing) then they will enjoy their lunch.  They will EAT.

Another avenue that popped into my mind while reading this article is what is this school doing to provide the activity time children need to burn of the calories consumed?  Yes, there is a lot of talk about school lunches being full of sodium and other preservatives.  Ok even if you clean up school lunches that will not eliminate the obesity issue in schools.  There is a huge reality that school are cutting back more and more on physical education and recess time in schools.  Schools are fixated on meeting benchmarks and passing tests that are mandated by lawmakers who don't always have a reality check on school life.  There is a push for time on task and away from other things which are considered "fluff".  But, anyone who has ever tried to lose weight can tell you the best and most effective way to to be active.  Would it not be better to teach children about the concepts of moderation and increase their activity time than to mandate what they can and can't have for lunch?

As a teacher, I would not be happy with this policy because I would know that more than half the students in my class would be starved from lunchtime on.  As a parent, I would see this as an infringement on my civil liberties and the ability to raise my children as I see fit.  I think there are ways to improve these issues without coming out with a blanket policy that punished the whole for the sins of a few.


  1. very well said! I completely agree!

  2. What a great read! I pack my sons lunch for two reasons:

    1. He is picky
    2. He is growth hormone deficient and I can monitor what he does eat. The shots don't work if he doesn't get his calories!! I bet they will be reevalulating this policy very soon! I would be one parent who would be asking for change if this was in my area!

  3. All very valid points and I don't think this would fly on a district level any where - especially on a national level. I would fight it if it was at a school my children attended. I totally see the flip side and can see how this is acceptable at this particular school (which states they are 100% Hispanic in a very poor area of Chicago). I, personally, have not seen a school lunch in more than ten years, so I looked up school lunch menus around there. I was impressed with the baked salmon, turkey sloppy joes, organic milks, baked chicken wings, and salad bar. So, for this school in this area, these lunches may be for the best.

  4. i think for this school it does work at...for the healthy food aspect bee.

    BUT ive seen our school lunches...and read them in the paper. ok maybe the real banana i saw the other day was, but that was about it. yes it was still better than chips and cookies, but it was still loaded with sugar and white flour!

  5. LOL @ the real banana comment. :) I remember the fresh fruit that was put out for lunch when I was in school - all bruised bananas and red dull soft looking apples. Bleck. I have no idea what's on the menu at schools here - but I have my menu. It's not always the best (today for lunch was quesadilla, rice, banana, milk)...but we do get a variety of foods throughout the day (especially through a week). :)

  6. even saying it's a low income area and that is a good reason for making it mandatory is still making huge assumptions. if they are receiving free lunch most likely they are not bringing in lunch from school. if they are predominantly Hispanic then why is the menu not geared towards healthier versions of the food of their culture and they may choose to eat school lunch. I think it comes to choices and who get to decide what is best for children. Why does the principal get to decide that all children HAVE to eat school lunch? My son's do not always have a "well balanced" meal, but they eat what is served. I serve them the fruits they eat, the proteins they like and grains that are healthy for them. are we assuming that low income families can not make these choices too? If not why not educate them on better choices instead of taking away the ability to choose?

  7. That is crazy! Parent's should have the choice...and it's their choice what to feed their kids, not the schools! The only thing the school can do is teach kids about healthy eating...not "shove" it down their throats...literally!

  8. I so agree. Well said. I'm shocked that it is mandatory.


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