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At This School, Lunch Is Mandatory

No More Bag Lunches

The principal of Little Village Elementary Academy in Chicago is taking the school's responsibility to provide healthful lunches to its students seriously - so seriously, in fact, that the elementary school kids are not allowed to bring lunches from home.

Although they make exceptions for children who have allergies or other medical issues, principal Elsa Carmona says, "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."

Different Schools, Different Policies

Even though the policy is getting national attention now, it was created 6 years ago and is in line with efforts by other schools to keep junk food out of the lunch room.

The Chicago Public School system says that principals have authority to use their judgment for their "individual school environments" when it comes to food policy. For instance, at Chicago's Claremont Academy Elementary teachers are allowed to confiscate sugary and salty snacks, which are returned at the end of the day.

Some have barred students from bringing drinks other than the water provided by the school. Others have limited the number of birthday celebrations teachers can offer to cut down on the amount of sugary treats served in the classroom. Many schools have eliminated vending machines that serve sugared beverages.

Healthy, But Too Restrictive

The school says there are advantages to the mandatory school lunch program. Healthful eating helps fight the childhood obesity epidemic and can encourage lifelong healthy eating habits. And, with more students enrolled in the lunch program, the federal government gives more money to the school to subsidize the meal program.

However, some parents are upset about the policy, saying it infringes on their rights to decide what to feed their children and is an example of Big Government gone too far. They say parents should be able to help guide their children's eating habits and cater to their individual child's tastes and needs.

They note that a good deal of the mandatory food gets thrown out because the kids don't like the taste.

Read More:

  • Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home (Chicago Tribune)
  • In One Chicago School, A Mom-Made Lunch Is Not Allowed (NPR)

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