School Lunches School Lunch

Published on April 14th, 2011 | by Heather Carr

16

Chicago School Bans Homemade Lunch

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A Chicago public school has banned homemade lunches. Students at the school are required to buy their lunch from the school cafeteria.

Exceptions are made for allergies and other medical reasons. The article in the Chicago Tribune didn’t mention whether allowances are made for religious reasons, but presumably they are. However, it leaves open the question of whether dietary choices for ethical reasons – vegetarian, vegan, locavore, GMO-free, and others – are respected.

Children who attend Little Village Academy, a middle school in the Chicago public school system, have not been allowed to bring lunches from home for the last six years. Principal Elsa Carmona said she started the policy after watching children bring soft drinks and flaming hot chips for lunch on field trips.

Is the Food at Little Village Academy Better Than Homemade Lunches?

I couldn’t find an online lunch menu for Little Village Academy, so I’m not sure how much healthier their lunches are than the ones I might send with my kid. Apparently, many kids at the school throw away their lunches uneaten.

High school kids from another Chicago school attended a school board meeting to complain about the unhealthy foods they were being served from the school cafeteria. The CEO of Chicago Public Schools has promised that next year, the foods will have less sugar and salt and more fruits and vegetables will be served.

Other Chicago Schools

Little Village Academy isn’t the only school that has banned homemade lunches. Still other schools in the Chicago area allow lunches to be brought from home, but lunch monitors confiscate foods that are too high in salt or sugar. Those foods are usually returned to the student after school.

Concern over childhood obesity and the lack of nutrition in many processed foods has been behind much of the recent push for better food in schools. Children don’t always make the best choices for themselves. Parents don’t always know what’s in the food they send to school with their kids. School is a good place for nutritious habits to be taught.

Is Banning Homemade Lunches a Good Idea?

I’m sure the principal has the best interests of the children in mind, but it seems a bit much to me. I want to be the one to shape my child’s eating habits. The school staff might respond that I can’t see what my child is eating during school hours and they need the authority to control what she eats.

What do you think? Has the staff of Little Village Academy and the other Chicago public schools overstepped their authority? Or are they doing the right thing by enforcing good eating habits?

Image by Ben+Sam, used with Creative Commons license.


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About the Author

Heather Carr loves food, politics, and innovative ways to make the world a better place. She counts Jacques Pepin and Speed Racer among her inspirations. You can find her on Facebook or .



16 Responses to Chicago School Bans Homemade Lunch

  1. nancy says:

    Well, if the picture is anything to go by, what a typical school lunch might have, then it needs help. Starches (potatoes, bun, even pudding) and sugars with a little protein. No fruit or veggie on the plate at all. Parents should have say in what their child/ren eat. Children typically will eat or not eat according to whatever stage of growth they may be in. Our oldest went through a perioud that he wanted nothing but pb jelly sandwhiches morning, noon, and night. That’s what I fixed him with veggie/fruit selections or gasp even chips if that’s what he would eat. He outgrew this fad within a few months with him no worse for the food he was eating and no stress on either of us, fighting about what he “should” be eating. Our youngest (15) has been on a serious raman noodle kick for some reason. Again, nothing that’s so seriouly bad and he’ll outgrow in a few months.

  2. veronica says:

    Oh my God. what are they thinking. right now the school lunches arent that healthy in the first place. plus, these days isnt it cheaper to make your own lunch then buying it. who do they think they are? they arent the parents to my child. they have no right to do this. secondly, were there any votes among parents about this? i doubt it.

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  4. Wendy says:

    The question is whether you believe her when she says the reason is to encourage healthier eating and not to force the kids to buy food from the ‘company store’. Either way, though, it is completely overstepping their bounds. I would have pulled my kid from that school in a heartbeat.

  5. On one hand, it’s good to see that a school system is taking action against childhood obesity and regulating the foods children eat at school. Good parenting debates aside — there are parents who don’t know and don’t care what their children are eating.

    However, there are parents (like most of the people who read this blog) who are informed and are teaching their children about nutrition and how to make the right choices.

    As with anything, balance is key. This is clearly a situation where balance has been forgotten.

  6. KIm says:

    Parents, not schools, have the final authority on what their children consume. The best way for schools to ensure good diets is to make sure they eliminate the bad options from their own menus.

  7. sandy keaton says:

    Excuse me for thinking but the parents do pay the schools salary, do they not? This angers me to no end! Why don’t they just go out and approach every parent and extort the money? Do they really have to go so low as to hide behind the children’s lunches? From what I remember from school lunches they were the absolute worst! And if that isn’t bad enough just ask a school lunch employee about the shit that they feed our kids. Seriously you HAVE to ask!

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  9. kami says:

    If they feel they are doing a better job then the parents then they need to send home proof of that.. I think they are just scared jamie my come to thier school.. regardless it is a parents right to know what is going into their child’s mouth regardless its better for them or not.. that is your right.. but you know what.. to get away from this whole thing of either too much school control or not enough parents that feel that strongly about it are just going to have to home school their kids.. because no matter what its always going to be either way…

  10. M Farl says:

    Tall about too much regulation; this joins a growing list of power hungry idiots giving orders to people on matters of inconsequence. Another example: a cashier tried to tell my supper guest at the Country House restaurant that it was forbidden to remomove her oyster shells from the restaurant because of health dannger. Nonsense; show me the edict and what about “doggy bags”?

  11. Emily says:

    Kids are smart. They will find ways to get the so-called ‘bad’ food into the school one way or another. And on top of that, a food monitor taking food away from my kid because it has too much sugar or too much salt? What?! So my kid might starve the rest of the day? Is the school going to start sending home paperwork with the amounts of each vitamin, mineral, fats, etc. are acceptable? Geez, one more thing to worry about.

  12. what?!?!?! I was just watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which is like the opposite of this… sure, parents may not always pack healthy lunches, but it seems like cafeteria lunches are GUARANTEED to be unhealthy! also – this is definitely not the way to move towards a healthier population. It seems like they’re trying to justify their desire to, like Jo said, get more profits…

  13. Jo Borras says:

    I’m sure whoever was behind this owns the company that sells those lunches to the school in the first place. This is just one more example, I’m sure, of Chicago corruption.

  14. Jeannie Moulton says:

    This will enrage foodies and conservatives alike. Ridiculous.

    It would be different if the food they served in schools wasn’t total crap…

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