It appears some schools aren’t just banning peanut butter from the lunchroom. Little Village Academy, a public school in Chicago, recently announced its decision to ban kids from bringing bagged lunches to school altogether.
The Principal of the school, Elsa Carmona, told the Chicago Tribune that her intentions were to get students to eat healthier.
“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “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.”
I was unable to get in touch with anyone from the Little Village Academy or the Chicago Public School Nutrition Prgoram, and seeing as though I’ve never been there firsthand, I can’t make any concrete statements on the quality of the food being served. But I know from my own experience in grade school, the lunches being served were not what I would consider healthy. And yes, milk is the standard for school lunches, rather than soda, but is sugar-jacked flavored milk really that much healthier? (More than 70% of the milk distributed in school cafeterias is flavored, according to the Milk Processor Education Program.)
The Chicago Public School system has recently made efforts to increase the nutritional standards of school lunches. But I still have my doubts as to just how healthy the lunches being served to, and now practically forced upon, students really are. I doubt 100% whole grains are being served with every meal, nor high quality proteins or fresh vegetables. Instead, I expect “wheat” bread, which reflects enriched flour as the first ingredient with an inadequate amount of whole wheat flour included, along with dead vegetables/unripe fruit that the kids are likely to throw out, and maybe a bag of low-fat chips (as if the low-fat label qualifies them as healthy).
While I don’t know exactly what these kids are eating, I can say almost for certain that parents are capable of packing a higher caliber, healthier lunch, presumably at a cheaper price too. The nature of mass-produced school lunches simply doesn’t allow for this right now. With parents being given two options–pay $2.25 a day for lunches their kids might not even want or send their kids away from lunch hungry–the bagged lunch ban seems a bit absurd to me.
Sure, not every parent fully knows how or makes the effort to make a healthy lunch. But if you’re really looking out for kids’ overall health, why not devote a little time to educating parents on how they can pack healthier lunches? Consistent education may give parents healthy ideas for meals outside of school as well.
Health education is definitely not as easy as it sounds, but banning bagged lunches certainly isn’t a suitable solution to up the health ante of kid’s diets.
What are your thoughts on the Chicago Little Village Academy lunch ban?