School Lunch
Or No Lunch!

We all know how important healthy eating is, especially given the obesity epidemic in our country. But is banning home-packed lunches at school a solution to the problem? One principal at a Chicago elementary school thinks so. What do you think about the school lunch only policy?

kids eating school lunch

Elsa Carmona, principal of Little Village Academy in Chicago, doesn't allow her students to bring lunch from home, instead requiring they eat school cafeteria lunch. She told 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."

Is school lunch really healthier?

The fact is that one in three children in the U.S. is either overweight or obese. Clearly, we have a problem. However, is cutting out homemade lunches and requiring students to eat school lunches a good idea?

While President Obama signed the child nutrition bill at the end of 2010, many school lunches currently leave much to be desired. A 2009 study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that school meals fell short of meeting healthy dietary guidelines. Until school lunches are "cleaned up," it's hard to believe that school lunches are a better nutritional option than many homemade lunches.

>> Creating cool school lunches - Hot, cold, bought or brought

"Taking away choices and forcing kids to eat the meals provided at schools is wrong in the most fundamental way," says Sugar Jones, who writes about life, love, food, travel and being fabulous over forty at her blog Sugar in the Raw. "The argument that the school is protecting the students from their own bad choices is as ridiculous as calling school lunches healthy. If the ingredients of those meals were to be listed, they might be just as unhealthy as a bag of chips or a soda."

Potential solution to a problem

While many parents are outraged at the idea that children could be required to eat school lunches and prohibited from bringing their own lunches, some can see the value. Mom of two Jill Cunnup says, "I am probably in the minority that actually likes the concept. If the school can truly provide what a pediatrician or nutrition expert would consider a healthy lunch then I would happily [agree]."

Jill acknowledges that as things stand, school lunches aren't healthy enough, but if they were improved, she'd be on board. "I am all for it if it's done right. With our school systems and budgets, the chances are slim but if it were, I would be the first to sign up," she notes.

Is there a compromise?

Perhaps there's a middle ground -- somewhere between school lunch or no lunch. As Principal Carmona said herself, the reason she implemented the school lunch only policy was because she grew tired of seeing kids bringing "bottles of soda and flaming hot chips" for lunch.

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Instead of an all out homemade lunch ban, the school could instead ban certain types of food. Tracy D., a mom of three who blogs at My Minivan Rocks, explains, "My children are still in pre-school, but their school has guidelines on what can be included in lunches. They state plainly and simply that sugary items will not be served at lunch and will be sent back home in the children's backpacks."

While it's probably simpler to regulate preschoolers' lunches, it might be worth the effort to implement a similar policy for elementary school children, especially if the alternative is banning homemade lunches altogether. "I know this would be much harder to do with older kids, but it seems like it would be worth trying before instituting a policy what you saidas strict as requiring kids to purchase school lunches," adds Tracy.

>> What do you think? Did this school principal have the right idea by requiring kids to eat cafeteria lunch -- or no lunch at all? Or is she taking away far too many choices by banning homemade lunches at school?

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Comments on "Home packed lunches banned at Chicago school"

MICH August 23, 2013 | 12:08 PM


pat September 01, 2011 | 10:23 AM

What do I think? R U kidding? The school cannot possibly have the legal right to tell me what my child can or cannot eat, nor to force me to pay for a lunch I do not agree my child should eat. If my child were in that school there would be a lawsuit straightaway!!!

taycen h. April 18, 2011 | 1:23 AM

School lunch has long been a frustrating point of contention. Nationwide attention is being focused on one small school in the Chicago school district. After six years, one school policy that bans students from bringing meals from your home is being re-examined. The school claims this ban is to protect student health, but many parents beg to differ. I found this here: Ban on lunches from home reignites debate over school lunches.

miss practicality April 16, 2011 | 4:38 PM

that is so crazy and idiotic i mean for one why would you want to force kids to eat that stuff its nasty! how about the prisipal can only eat school lunch! secondly what if they cant afford it do they just go hungry?? and lastly think of the line!! half the kids wont even have time to eat!! dumbest idea ever!!!!!

Jessica April 14, 2011 | 11:26 AM

This is real Big Brother stuff! The State will tell us what to do, how to do it and it will be "for our own good". I would never allow my child to eat that processed, crap they serve, much less be forced to pay for it.

j lopez April 14, 2011 | 8:11 AM

one step closer to communism

Ghost April 13, 2011 | 10:06 PM

Yeah, because, you know, freeze dried shippedhalfwayacrossthecountry mass microwaved factory food is very healthy for you. *rolls eyes* Come on, have you seen how many preservatives is in that crap?

Jean lee April 13, 2011 | 9:09 PM

My daughter is in college now but from 1st grade on, she took a packed lunch from home. She had a sandwhich, fruit, veggies, chips and cookies. Everyday. In high school, she packed her own lunches and not surprising, she kept on packing the same stuff. I had access to the school menu but thought what was in her bag was much better for her. This principal needs to stop this and start teaching that good nutrition starts at home. I never ate the school lunches way back when either. Yuck!

miss respect April 13, 2011 | 2:35 PM

Is the school going to bear the cost of buying the lunches of the children who bring their lunch because their parents just may be on a budget. Maybe the principal should pay for all of these extra lunches.

Enlightenment April 13, 2011 | 2:32 PM

After I watched "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution", it was obvious that most parents were morons when it came to making packed lunches.

Laura April 12, 2011 | 6:05 PM

I agree, Sarah! I feel like banning soda makes sense...banning packed lunches? Not so much.

Sarah Caron April 12, 2011 | 4:02 PM

I think a ban on home-packed lunches is ridiculous. That would have to be one amazing, incredible lunch program to make it even begin to make sense. But the idea that the school can provide a better lunch than I can make is insulting, at the very least. And who the heck sends soda to school these days? Really? If that's the problem, then ban the soda!

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