There’s has been quite a furor over the story about a Chicago school forcing all the students (barring a note from the doctor) to eat school lunches. That means the parents are not allowed to pack lunch for their children. The goal is, “to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.” Apparently the principal gets to decide. Here is another example of a policy, “officials allow packed lunches but confiscate any snacks loaded with sugar or salt. (They often are returned after school.) Principal Rebecca Stinson said that though students may not like it, she has yet to hear a parent complain.” (See my recent article about misguided school wellness policies.) What’s next, lunch monitors making “fat” kids take skim milk, or shame them about what they are eating? Pushing the “skinny” ones to eat more?
As a parent, I would flip out either way. M gets great lunches, and she occasionally gets treats that would surely “fail” their standards. As a feeding specialist, I am disappointed. Missed opportunities, and pressuring, not supporting kids to be competent eaters.
The other day I was packing M’s lunch, I had cut up strawberries and mango, hummus and carrots, ham with a little miracle whip (rolled up) and about 1/4 bag of cheetos that was left from Subway over the weekend (we’ve been eating out a lot while our house is on the market and we get those last-minute calls for showings…) I am still thrilled that she has learned self-regulation, and can incorporate “forbidden” foods and can stop when she is full. I very purposefully include a variety of foods in my planning. Occasionally she gets a chocolate, or a “fun-size” bag of Skittles, or a Starburst…
You can bet your bottom dollar I would complain. I have complained. My daughter’s schools have tried similar intrusions, and luckily they have backed off.
It shocked me that this school has been doing this for six years. It doesn’t sound like it’s going too well. The motives feel very coercive to me, not supportive. I don’t know what the quality of the meals are, but it doesn’t sound like they are cooked from scratch. A child should have an option if they don’t like the main entree (or you get stuck only serving pizza and mac n cheese and chicken fingers.) If you are going to do hot lunch, there needs to be some choices, including bread and butter so a child can at least eat something. It sounds like pretty heavy-handed stuff.
I do recognize that many parents have trouble planning balanced meals for a variety of reasons, that many families do pack lunches that are less “nutritious” than school lunches (I can’t remember the study, but over 2/3 failed, and I can pull it up when I get home if folks are curious.) (I’m hiding out at a coffee shop while our home is undergoing inspection It all comes around to how kids are fed. Parents reliably pack foods they “know their kids will eat.” Picky eating effects nutrition, but in some ways, the parents are onto something. It’s better to eat SOMETHING than nothing. I also wonder about the teachers and staff. Are their meals similarly policed? Are they forced to eat hot lunch?
This is a pretty disjointed post, with lots of threads. Did any of it resonate with you? What are your thoughts?
(Thanks to my readers for forwarding this article! Keep sending your tips, I love it!)