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laureth's avatar

Should schools forbid homemade lunches?

Asked by laureth (27091 points ) April 11th, 2011

This question is inspired by this article.

Looks like a school district in the Chicago area is sick of kids bringing crap food for lunch, and has decided that they have to either eat the school’s cafeteria food or go hungry. To be fair, they’re improving the school lunch nutrition, and it’s probably healthier if the kid is used to bringing Twinkies and Coke from home. On the other hand, there are got to be parents in a dither, either because their homemade lunches are nutritionally superior, or they’re in a dither because “how dare you tell my family what we can or cannot eat!”

Do you think this will help with childhood health and obesity issues, or does the end fail to justify the means here?

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28 Answers

KateTheGreat's avatar

I believe that this idea is only acceptable for elementary students, as long as they provide a plethora of options for them. They should also provide funding to those who cannot afford school lunches. Childhood obesity in America is an epidemic. If the school is going to do this, they should not half-ass it, they should serve the most nutritious meals as possible. Children these days are eating more and more sugary foods and high calorie content. But I believe as the children get older, they should be able to bring what they want to eat.

nikipedia's avatar

Seems like the school needs to:
(1) provide evidence their meals are healthier than the ones from home (I remember what public school lunches looked like; pizza and soggy french fries are not a step up from twinkies and coke)
(2) provide free or subsidized meals, since bringing food from home is often less expensive than buying it at school.

Seems like they could circumvent the whole issue by getting at the root of the problem. Do the homes in the area lack education about nutrition or do they not have easy access to things like produce and whole grains? Granted, this may be beyond the scope of the school system, but I think outright banning homemade lunches probably goes beyond their jurisdiction as well.

laureth's avatar

The article claims that over 80% of the students qualify for their free or reduced-price lunch program.

hug_of_war's avatar

I packed my lunch everyday for all of my school life – not out of want but because paying $2.25 daily for 4 kids becomes really expensive. I get that this school is mostly low-income, but that is a big consideration to me. What about those 20%?

Truthfully, I think all these projects battling childhood obesity are stupid. Obesity starts at home, and by fighting obesity in general, childhood obesity rates would naturally drop.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The national school lunch program already provides for free or reduced price meals, often including breakfast, lunch and a snack.

You would have to make sure that there were meals provided that satisfied the cultural and religious restrictions of any students.

I do know that if a school has all of its students enrolled in reduced rate or free meal plans, they get a substantial boost to their school lunch funds from the Feds. I think that might be what is behind this issue.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am pretty sure without researching any more into this issue that the school doesn’t give a shit about the crap food the kids bring from home or they wouldn’t be participating in the food atrocity that is public school food (regardless all the supposed improvements). They might be pressured into this decision (from multiple angles) and are using the ‘better nutrition’ as a smoke screen. And I would be ‘the parent in a dither’ because damn straight what I feed my children is 100% better than school food.

blueiiznh's avatar

No, they should not forbid homemade lunches.
I would sure as hell fight that one!
The School District may be under some kind of federal dictated nutrition guidline, but that cannot fit the needs of all the children.
There would be more food thrown away and gone to waste than you could imagine if this was done.
They could not possibly prepare a better meal that what a caring knowing parent can for their child.
That being said, the nutrition teaching is more important coming from the home. It is the responsiblity of the home to do the right thing. The school may be the best meal that some kids get, but that is a crying shame because parents are not doing what needs to be done.
Jumping off the soapbox before I get too far on the outside influence on childrens nutrition!

chyna's avatar

I am in total agreement with @simone_De_Beauvoir. The lunches my mom packed was 100% better than what the school provided. Also, as a child, I was a picky eater. My mom knew what I would eat and I would go without eating if the school had something I wouldn’t eat, which, back then was some type of bean 4 days a week.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Absolutely not. That’s about all I have to say about that.

woodcutter's avatar

The govt. is all knowing so that automatically makes them better parents than the workers, who pay their bills and their perks. Trust the govt. it is there to protect us from ourselves.

muppetish's avatar

The food at every school I have attended (sans my university, which has several fast food options and a farm store located on campus) was atrocious. I brought lunch to school every day. I would have been kicking and screaming in the principle’s office if they told me that I had to pay to eat that garbage.

Schools should not forbid homemade lunches because parents should choose what their children eat. It is also unlikely that schools will cater to kids with different diets (those with diabetes, who choose to eat vegan, who choose to eat only organic, who are allergic to more than just peanuts, etc.)

And I bet schools banning homemade lunches don’t have much going for their physical education department.

Symbeline's avatar

What the holy ass…when I was a kid, the school selling anything but tiny milk cartons for seventy five cents was unheard of.
I remember this kid, Adam, who had a bag of Nachos and a bottle of Coke for lunch. Like all the time. While my dad gave me a ham sandwich, celery sticks and money for milk. The school in question here isn’t going to help matters much, because the kid who wants crap is going to be given crap at any other time, if their parents are willing to give them crap for lunch.

Anyways, the exceptions that may have driven the school board to take these decisions don’t outweigh the mostly normal lunches that kids get. Unless I’m just really old and out of the loop. Good lunches should, totally, be offered by the school; free or not. (whether kids took advantage of this or not, as I say, those who just don’t want it will get crap elsewhere)
But they should not be forced. Despite what people say about how times keep getting shittier than before, many parents will always love their kids, and drastic measures like these are unnecessary. Especially when considering eat our food or starve. Wow. Would that school really deprive a student of a meal if they didn’t get it from the school? Nice.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think they should be banning homemade lunches. I think banning candy and soda is fine, but banning homemade lunches all together is too much. I have ate lunch with my son at school and he definitely eats better than I did when I was in school at lunch time. Their meals are a lot better (they’re also $2.50 a day).

WestRiverrat's avatar

They shouldn’t ban all the candy, if you eat the rest of your lunch you shouldn’t be denied a sweet just because someone else doesn’t approve. I agree the candy should be the smallest part of a balanced lunch, but it should be an option.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@WestRiverrat And who is going to monitor that they eat their lunches before the candy or that the candy is the smallest portion of the meal? Candy (not a healthy snack/sweet) should stay at home (especially given how much pressure schools get about being responsible for the child’s nutrition while at school). The child can have their candy at home if their parents want them to have it. If they want to send a sweet to go with their lunch, there are many healthy options that are sweet in taste.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Seaofclouds When I was in school, my teacher(s) did.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@WestRiverrat When I was in school, our teachers never looked at our lunches and the cafeteria workers didn’t say anything about what we bought. I use to buy just a milk and ice cream for lunch. Our teachers weren’t even in the lunch room with us while we were eating. There were a few monitors that stood off to the sides in the room to watch us so that we wouldn’t misbehave, but that was it.

jonsblond's avatar

My daughter’s school forbids children to bring soda in their lunch if they bring their own lunch to school. That’s as far as it should go. imo

I know many schools in our area that have taken out soda machines and are trying to provide a healthier meal for the children. They also send materials home with the children to help educate parents about healthy eating habits. This is all good, but making my child eat school food without my having a choice as to what my child gets to eat is just wrong.

If I pay for two weeks of school lunch, at an average rate of $2.50 per day, that’s $25 for two weeks. I can buy a loaf of whole grain bread for $2, peanut butter for $2, grape jelly for $1, a bag of clementines for $4, and a bag of goldfish crackers for $2, for a total of $11. This food will supply my daughter with lunch for two weeks.

I don’t see how the lunch menu is any better than what I might send. I’m looking at the menu now. Monday is chicken nuggets with Tostito chips and banana. Tuesday is hamburger with french fries, orange and chocolate pudding. Wednesday is macaroni and cheese, salad and cookie. Thursday is hot dog, goldfish cracker, orange and brownie. Friday is mini turkey sub with cole slaw and chocolate cake.

So I need to spend an extra $28 per month for food my child may not eat if homemade lunches are forbidden? I’m in a dither. :/

edited to add- I forget to mention I send .30 per day for my daughter to buy milk. That’s an extra $3 for the two weeks I send her to school with a homemade lunch

SpatzieLover's avatar

this is why I homeschool…seriously, nutrition

It’s preposterous. School lunches are made from crap processed, chemical laden waste that I wouldn’t feed to my animals, let alone allow my child to ingest.

BarnacleBill's avatar

If this is a school district where 80% of the kids apply for free lunch programs, then it is possible that what the child gets to eat at school, in terms of breakfast and lunch, is the only food they get to eat all day. According to Blessings in a Backpack, 62% of the students in public schools qualify for the free or reduced lunch programs, and one in six student is at risk for hunger.

I suspect requiring students to eat a hot lunch at school increases the quality of food for all. A school nuitrition program includes both government provided foods and purchased fresh food. If you don’t have enough paid lunches going into the program, then that reduces the amount of money available to purchase fresh food. School cafeterias have to meet a budget; it’s not like they have the money to buy fresh food and choose not to do so in favor of government commodity purchase.

My sister manages a school cafeteria.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@BarnacleBill That is interesting information about how the cafeteria money works. However, I do not think I should be forced to pay $2.25 a day for my kids’ lunches (as they do not qualify for free lunches) so the kids who get breakfast and lunch free get a better selection. I figure, my family is probably already supporting feeding these children through taxes.

I have no problem with schools banning junk food from lunches or vending machines though.

Buttonstc's avatar

After watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last year, I find it difficult to believe that any school lunch program feeds healthy foods to children.

BTW. The new season starts tonight. The LA school system banned him before he even got off the plane. Gee, I wonder what they’re trying to hide. :)

ABC tonight (Tues.). He makes a lot of sense.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Buttonstc I watch him, too. I have a feeling the LA district didn’t want anyone in their kitchen for a reason

I also happen to know how bad our local school food is…it is horrendous…And I live in a wealthy ‘burb. I can only imagine how many corners are cut in the inner city, if the food here is this terrible.

laureth's avatar

Another article on the matter.

Quote: Principal Elsa Carmona told the Tribune she created the policy after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” for their lunch.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@laureth The pictures in the article reminded me. I worked in a school office when my daughter was in elementary. She packed her lunch everyday. Several times she ate her lunch in my office because seeing the food on the other kids’ trays made her nauseous. This was not an everyday occurrence; it was only when that particular meal was served. I do not remember what it was called but it was some kind of chicken with sauce.

SpatzieLover's avatar

That reminds me of the day a friend of mine found a worm in her school lunch pizza. I never ate from the cafeteria again

mattbrowne's avatar

I would rather work with incentives than strict rules to achieve the goal of healthier diets.

BarnacleBill's avatar

It’s probably the 80/20 rule at work. 80% of the rules exist because 20% of the population won’t do the right thing without them.

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