Nutritional Tough Love: School Outlaws Lunches From Home

image from www.chicagotribune.comThis story is a couple weeks old but I think it's worth highlighting here given past posts on school lunches. In the latest salvo in the school-lunch wars, Little Village Aacademy in Chicago has let parents know they are no longer allowed to pack a homemade lunch for their kids. It's plastic trays of re-heated goodness or nothing at all. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices. "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."

This seems like a misguided approach at best, and at worst a sneaky way to increase funds coming into the school.

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.

If the picture (Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune) of the school lunch being offered up by the school is any indication, it's hard to believe the quality of the offerings at school are remarkable enough to warrant taking away a parent's perogative to best judge how to best feed their child. That sure looks like chocolate milk on the blue tray. 

According to sugar stacks, a 12 ounce can of regular coke has 39 grams of sugar and an 8 ounce container of chocolate milk contains 29 grams. That means that 8 ounces of chocolate milk contains more sugar than 8 ounces of coke. If Coke supplemented their product with calcium would that make it acceptable to the principal?

image from www.sugarstacks.com image from www.sugarstacks.com

While I've been a little hard on Jaime Oliver in the past, his approach of educating parents and kids is the best way forward in the problematic world of school lunches.

The concusion of the Tribune article sums up the problems with the new approach:

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. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.