A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is not exactly a bento story, but it’s certainly related, especially for moms and dads of kids in grade school. A public school in Chicago has banned lunches brought from home. The reason stated by the school principal is to “protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.” To quote from the article:

Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” [school principal] 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.

Having just written about school lunch at a kindergarten here in Japan, I thought it was quite ironic to read this. Of course, lunch brought from home can be very unhealthy. But is banning all lunches brought from home, with exceptions only made for kids with allergies or medical issues going too far?

I don’t have any experience with school lunches in the U.S. recently. I vaguely remember the school lunches I had when I was in 5th grade in the U.S., and later the lunches offered in high school when my family moved back there. Well I take that back actually - I don’t remember any food offered by the high school cafeteria. I must have eaten there occasionally, but I think I mostly brought lunch from home (not bentos, but sandwiches and the like). All I do remember is that, during the year I went to school in White Plains, New York, I had spaghetti with meat sauce almost every single day. The spaghetti was all cut up and rather mushy, but it still tasted better than anything else on offer to me.

On the other hand I do remember the school lunches I had when I was in elementary school in Japan. (In junior and senior high school we didn’t have school lunch, so I brought a bento or bought some sandwiches or kashipan - filled sweet or savory bread. In junior high school when I was in the kendo (Japanese fencing) club, I’d be so hungry that I’d buy a couple of kashipan besides eating my bento, and still was a skinny kid around 40 kilo, at basically my current high. Those were the days…) The reason why I remember the school lunches in Japanese elementary school so well is because we, the kids, had to serve them. The class was divided into 7 han or groups, and each han took turns being the servers. The lunch stuff was wheeled to each classroom on big trolleys - big pots, steel containers with individual servings of noodles, milk cartons on a lower level, bowls and trays and utensils. We would don hairnet-type caps or scarves around our heads, wear white coveralls, and ladle out the day’s offerings. I think things like curry, udon, nimono (stewed vegetables and chicken), and - again - spaghetti with meat sauce were regular items. We especially looked forward to curry day - one boy in my han in 6th grade used to purposefully hold back a bit from each serving, so he would be sure of there being some left over in the big pot. He’d rush through his first helping and go back for seconds before anyone else could. Anyway, in retrospect I think that the school lunch serving duties were considered to be part of our education, though the term shokuiku (see previous article) was not yet in vogue. (We also had cleaning duty, also done by each han on a rotating schedule, after the end of classes every day.)

In elementary school, bento lunches were not banned, but I think only a couple of kids brought lunch from home (I can’t remember why). Parents had to pay a school lunch fee anyway, and it was more fun to eat what everyone else was eating. These days, kids still have to do lunch-serving duty (kyuushoku tohban). My nephew Lyoh still gets hungry after playing sports after school, so my sister makes him a bento too. This page has a photo of 1st graders on school lunch serving duty, and this page shows the whole lunch-serving process.

But anyway - what do you think about that school banning lunches from home? Has anything like that happened at the school your kids go to? Are school lunches really healthier than lunch made at home? How do you feel about that judgement being made on you as a mom or dad?

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Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

My school's lunches in elementary/middle school consisted often of unidentifiable "meat" chunks in grey sauce. The dish was grey. I didn't trust it.

Occasionally they'd have some non-name-brand of Pizza Pockets that were awesome-tasting. Sausage, sauce, and cheese, seemed to be oven-baked rather than microwaved (so you could do mass quantities).

In middle school they started offering microwaved pizza sticks, chips, candies, and so forth for sale as well.

I can only hope the school doing this has a better menu!

"Stop having the boring tuna; stop having the boring life" - Vince Offer

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. When I was in high school and younger, the school lunches were terrible and very unhealthy - and I went to schools all over the country. If this happened at my sister's school, I'd be furious.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Most schools serve totally appalling, disgusting, unhealthy food.
But a lot of kids' parents send them with Lunchables ...

Maybe this school is an exception. :/ (But if their meals aren't free--which they aren't at most US schools, unless the family qualifies for free or subsidized meals--I can't see how this is really legal.)

(Also, to the professor-mother who thinks a sandwich, Goldfish crackers, and milk is a healthy lunch: IT ISN'T. Not unless she somehow failed to mention that it was, say, a roasted vegetable sandwich.)

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I am a high school student who prides to bring her own lunch in every day. To tell you the truth, especially in high school, the cafeteria sells only very greasy, very unhealthy food. French fries, pizza, deep-fried egg rolls, and sometimes breadsticks filled with cheese. The area is also packed with numerous cookies, muffins, and beverages like "carbonated juice", Gatorade, and the like. Sure, they might have a couple salads for sale, but they just consist of iceberg lettuce and croutons. The students themselves have been complaining about the food and trying to improve the quality of the food served in the cafeteria (not only is the food unhealthy, but it is also of very poor quality. The pizza looks and tastes like cardboard! Not to mention that the prices are sky-high) but the lunch ladies just scoff and seem to say "You don't know how lucky you are for us to provide you food".
I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of schools in the US are this way. And I could tell plenty more stories about this subject. I feel that if schools want to ban food being brought in, then they should at least have the courtesy of improving their "healthy meals" for the students.

Haha, sorry for ranting a little there.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

My highschool also served pizza and french fries with poutine as the standard lunch items. Kids who didn't want hot food got potato chips, chocolate bars and soda pop from the vending machines. There is nothing healthy about those meal options. In fact, I could never have survived highschool if I was forced to eat the school food - the amount of grease makes me ill. Maybe my lunches weren't as healthy as I'd eat now, but my mother taught us to make balanced lunches and that's a life lesson.

Thankfully the government has stepped in and banned vending machines and unhealthy options from the schools in an effort to prompt healthier every day eating. I don't think banning meals from home is the answer. Kids need to be taught how to be proactive about their own health & nutrition.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is pretty much what my kids tell me it's like. Our school is slowly improving some of the choices but many and not fast enough. Cost is usually the excuse. It's too labor intensive to cook from scratch and the long-shelf-life frozen-ready-to-eat foods they can reheat and serve are high in fat, salt, and sugar.

We finally convinced my son (in elementary school) that he was better off packing a larger lunch with healthy items rather than eat a smaller lunch from school. He's happy to have a "large" lunch.

My daughter (in high school) still eats the school lunch, but selects a single ham and swiss sub. She says it's the only item she can eat. No salads. The fruit is over ripe, low quality, and limited to apples and bananas. She doesn't take a lunch because she doesn't have enough time to get from class to her locker and back to the lunch room. They aren't allowed to carry a bag around, it must be left in their locker.

I'm sure, like anything else, some parents send healthy lunches to school with their children and some send a bag full of junk. And like everything else these days, the "solution" is a zero tolerance one size fits all answer. I just hope they are serving something better than what I've seen.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I totally agree. It is a shame, and school is for learning right? Well the food that is served in school is teaching kids that it is ok to have nachos and deep fried egg rolls as a meal...it's awful. I remember when I was in school in Indiana, the lunch ladies made things like chicken and dumplings with corn and mashed potatoes, or baked chicken with broccoli and baked potatoes, and we had a salad bar everyday if we just wanted a big salad...I will never forget that. The funny thing is -that school offered off-campus lunch, and I was on the free lunch program. So while all the kids left to go scarf down crap from taco bell that they had to pay for, I was enjoying a well balance lunch in the cafeteria for free....

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

A school near where I live allows kids to bring food from home, but it has to be healthy. I made lunches for a friend's kids one day because she was broke - they were all healthy lunches, and each included one small piece of candy (think a single fun-sized Snickers bar or something) for dessert.

I got a call from the school telling me that sending the kids with a single tiny candy bar was against the policy, so they'd taken the entire lunch away from the kids and made them have school lunches. All because of a half-sized serving of chocolate and caramel.

Frankly, while I understand that obesity is a huge problem in the US, I don't think that justifies schools telling you that you can't feed your own frickin' kid. This same school also doesn't allow kids to bring in cupcakes for their birthdays - and apparently, that's about to become policy throughout the entire school district. If I had kids, I'd homeschool 'em rather than deal with that level of BS.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Are you sure it was the chocolate/caramel that was the problem? My brother used to work at a peanut-free childcare center, and I doubt they would have been happy with a Snickers bar...

(Of course, taking the whole meal away just seems... vindictive.)

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Well I can't say much about the US but in France I remember some pretty OK lunches from the school cafeteria. I think we don't have a habit of bringing our own food (or serving it to other kids or even cleaning behind us). But I know that sometimes some inspector or nutritionist popped up and explained us how we should eat that portion of vegetable or fruit that is included in the meal.
I'm not sure it was all efficient though.

I disagree with that decision on banning food brought from home, but I'm not sure that, in France for example, you can avoid some kids not wanting to eat school lunch and having parents do anything, and give anything that kid would like. Banning can't be the solution anyways...

The things you told about school in this post are among the ones I appreciate in Japan. You really learn things other that intellectual in Japanese school :-)

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I would be absolutely FURIOUS if they banned lunches from home at our sons' school. They are not and will never be the sole arbiters of what is healthful for my children. I pack lunch for our boys BECAUSE the school lunches stink, nutritionally. They serve pizza of some kind every other day. At breakfast, they serve donuts and sweet rolls, for Pete's sake!

All that aside, they have no right to tell me what my children may or may not eat! Period!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I'm a teacher in a public school in America.

When I first read this article, I was really upset about it. However, after some thought I think there are definitely some schools where this policy would be for the better.

Having worked in a variety of schools, I have seen a correlation between income level and the quality of lunches sent from home. In schools that are low income, or from my low income students at my current high income school, the school lunches are the healthier option. They at least offer a vegetable, a fruit, diary and protein. Otherwise these kids come in with bags of chips, Little Debbie's and soda. That's it.

Is this true for every student? No, of course not. If this were ever proposed for a blanket policy across the States - even across a district - I would find that to be cause for much alarm. However, I want to believe that this principal and school are doing what is in their students' best interests.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is exactly what I was thinking. I know a bit about Chicago, and the neighborhood that school is in is... not exactly the best. Many of their students may in fact qualify for reduced/free school lunches anyway. I would also be alarmed to see this extended to every school in America (or Australia, or wherever), but it's hard to generalize about one school.

And who knows - perhaps this school has been working very hard to make sure their meals are as healthful as can be. We don't have all the information here.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I am all for healthy lunches, but I think this is about a lot more than lunch. It 's about personal freedom and choice. It's also forcing parents to buy something or let their children go hungry. What if companies that supply food to schools starts lobbying for this to happen all over the country for their own gain. It may start with the best of intentions, but once you open these sort of doors it is very hard to close them. The US is hardly a free country when we cannot even decide what our children eat for lunch. It is disheartening as an American to see all of our personal freedoms from even something as small as this be taken from us.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I agree completely with you, Kersten. Considering this school is in Chicago, it could very well be a lower-income area.

Even having personally gone to school in rather affluent areas, kids would still bring a bag of chips and a soda for lunch. Or, if they were given lunch money every day, would run to the vending machines and get-- a soda and a bag of chips.

Kids are going to eat what kids WANT to eat. Banning lunches from home seems like a pretty futile attempt at controlling that. Plus, it ruins it for the few kids who ACTUALLY want to eat a salad brought from home and raw almonds for a snack (yes, I have seen it done.)

So unless the school provides a full salad bar and eliminates all junk food as if it were an illegal subtance, it's pointless.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I've also taught in public schools and I agree, Kersten. I don't think this is a good policy for every school, but I think it is a well-intentioned response to a very real problem. One of the articles I read said 85% of the students at this particular school qualified for free/reduced lunch, so the school is clearly not in a high income area. And, I've seen the same kinds of things you have: kids bringing lunches even worse than Lunchables (yes, that is possible!) containing only candy, chips, snack cakes and/or sodas. School lunches truly are the better choice for some of these kids.

However, I think a better solution would be to ban junk food from the cafeteria regardless of the source (school lunch or home lunch), rather than ban lunches brought from home.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

From what I understand, this particular school (and most schools in Chicago) doesn't allow junk food or soda to be sold at the school. They also have a pioneering farm to school program and work with local chefs to ensure that the school meals are delicious and highly nutritious. When I first read the headlines about it I was appalled. Then when I looked into it more, I felt it was a drastic but overall good choice. If my son's school provided the sort of meals these schools provide I would have zero problem letting him eat at school everyday. In fact, while I love making bento and giving him special meals that he loves, I would also enjoy not having to wake up an extra 45min early every morning to make his lunch! And, it's much easier for a child to make the choice to eat that veggie burger when they're not sitting next to a kid eating a bag of Doritos and a Ho-Ho for lunch!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Boy, if that was my school district they'd be hearing an earful (with many swear words)!!!! I wouldn't stop until they reversed such a stupid rule or made an exception for my kids (because of my track record with lunches). I pack my kids lunches everyday with healthy food because they don't get healthy food in our district. The kids don't eat the junk in our school lunches either - just the dessert. Most of the "food" goes in the garbage because they aren't made to eat at lunch time. (I'll stop now, before I hit full rant mode!)

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Banning packed lunches, in my opinion, is complete and utter bull. Having left high school only a mere five years ago, I remember vividly the kind of lunch my school served. We had some form of pizza 2-3 times a week, and "breakfast for lunch" was also a big meal. Sausage, rubbery eggs, a hashbrown, and a quarter of an orange. Some school districts count ketchup or french fries as a serving of vegetables.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

That is just crazy! A friend of mine posted link to this blog writer's week in a DC public school kitchen: http://www.theslowcook.com/2010/01/19/tales-from-a-d-c-school-kitchen/ It was crazy to read both how school kitchens are forced to adapt and do the best they can, but also how terrible that food sounds from the perspective of someone who can cook. On the other hand - the school that implemented this policy, 807 out of the 810 students qualified for free or reduced price lunch (in 2008, the most recent data available), meaning that a family of 4 has an income of less than $39,220. Given the kinds of foods that qualify for food stamps, it's probably a toss up as to whether parents are actually packing a healthier lunch.

An interesting thing to note about school lunches -- as age increases, particularly at the high school level -- participation in free or reduced-price lunch decreases, because it isn't "cool" to eat the school lunch. It can be okay if your school has what's known as a la carte offerings, but FRPL programs don't cover that - the program only covers specific lunches that have a veggie, a protein, and a grain. Also, those free lunches, the federal government pays the school $2.57 per meal per child. There's a company that says they can make lunches from scratch, using all organic materials for less than $3 (maybe $2.75? -- more than the current rate, but not much). I think it would be an interesting challenge to put to the blog world. What would you cook for 500 kids, that meets nutrition guidelines, for $2.57 each ($1285 total). What would you do for a week?

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

A healthy living blogger, Mama Pea, is currently doing a series on her blog called "vegan values" where she serves her family of four for less than $10. You can see the meals here: http://peasandthankyou.com/tag/vegan-value/ I think she also uses mostly, if not all, organic ingredients. It is possible to eat healthily on a budget of $2.75 per child. I hate to see 'budget' being used as an excuse by governments and schools - it has been a big issue of debate in the recent past here in the UK, but I think it's a load of nonsense, and an excuse for laziness.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Kind of in the same vein I remember high school lunches and junior high always tasting pretty good but being terribly unhealthy -- anyone remember how greasy pizza day was?

But for Japanese school lunches I wouldn't recommend them to anyone over 18. They tend to be super high calorie, though well-balanced for young kids still growing. As a teacher, I have to eat them to, and I like them, but I arrange for smaller portions than what the kids eat.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

The one thing I have *not* seen in any of the articles about this is what the school is offering up for lunch. If it's the usual cafeteria fare, it's better than it used to be, but ain't any great shakes.

If they're serving up some pretty spectacular meals, then it might be another story, but I can't help but think the green beans are getting dumped out of a 10# can and have had all the taste & nutrition long since boiled out of them. If that's the case, then I'd rather have the option to send the kids off with their own lunch.

I'd still really like to see the menu.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Ridiculous. School lunches are rubbish. No whole grains, limp pitiful "veggie" that gets thrown out. Kids just eat the pizza or cinnamon rolls. You can educate about good food all you want, and even have cooking workshops, so they can eat something healthy but yummy they've made themselves, but you can't go and force them to eat the way you want. Banning homemade lunches, certain foods or oils or vending machines is not their business. I can't believe it's even legal.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Never in my life have I encountered a school lunch that even ATTEMPTED to APPEAR healthy. They have all been absolutely awful, greasy, and really not even good tasting. This is completely ridiculous.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

There was an interesting blog on school lunches. A teacher decided to eat school lunches for a year and blog about it. Pictures of school lunches are included as well, of course. It can be found here: http://fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com/

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Jamie Oliver (television's "The Naked Chef") has made recovering school lunches into something of a campaign, both in Britain and in the US. US school lunches are, simply put, pretty horrible. There's a continual 4-way struggle between the budget available, what can be shored up by corporate sponsors in the form of free or discounted food, what parents and consulting organizations think is healthy eating (and that changes with disconcerting speed), and the need to maximize caloric load because the most impoverished kids may not get much (if anything) else to eat at all.

That said, I don't think this school's policy is really going to do much except raise the stakes for all of these factors by forbidding children and parents that have a serious opinion about any of the factors. There's no margin for differing tastes, allergies, religious-respecting diets, etc.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Jamie's tv show came to mind immediately for me too. That was the first time I saw American school lunches, it was baffling.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is preposterous. It will undoubtedly be challenged in court and struck down, not in the least because it is obvious (at least to me) that the school's motivation is financial.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

In my elementary school, it's banned to bring candies, soda, chips and everything that contains peanut for lunch. But you can chose to eat at home if you live nearby.

To me this is better than banning bringing every thing, as for the most of time, school lunches are boring... I like to see what my friends have for lunch.

Now in my high school, the food offered are very good and healthy, like a different menu everyday and a choice of different type of pasta and sauce. It's very nice. Just costly. I prefer bringing my own, as healthy well prepared bento.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is terrible! I hope someone brings it to court.
School lunch is nothing more than really unhealthy fast food.
Sure, they have 'healthy options', but they don't force children to pick them. They still have the freedom to choose unhealthy options.

At least when you bring your own lunch, you can be sure you know everything that goes into it, so at least you know what you are eating.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

As someone who has had home made lunches since primary school(with maybe a year or two of school lunches throw in)... I can say without a doubt that the stuff I brought from home was always better than whatever was offered. As for the kyuushoku tohban we had something similar with two students per week doing it.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I'd rebel and pack a lunch anyway. The line for hot or cold lunch at my high school was horrendous and took at least 15 minutes. We had 30 minutes for lunch, so that left students forcing down lunch or face getting detention for being a minute late.

The food wasn't good, nor was it particularly healthy!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Like most things in America, this has federal money written all over it. The American school lunch program is horrible. Of course like a lot of things it started as a good idea that has been ruined by "well meaning politicians." This new school policy looks like a direct result of the funding a school gets for its lunch program. You see, a school only gets as much as it sells, if a school sells more lunches, it gets more money. The downside of this is that a school must adhere to the federal rules of what a school lunch should consist of. The rules are antiquated and it looks like they might be helping the rise in juvenile diabetes. You see a school lunch must have a certain number of calories, 600 I believe, with a low fat content. The disparity in the calories is often made up by sugar. A small container of strawberry milk contains more sugar than a can of soda and is one of the most popular items on any school lunch menu. I really don't remember where I read an article but there was a father who went to his kids' public school on the east coast for a week to oversee their cafeteria kitchen and it was a real eye opener to me. I think sending my kids a sandwich is a ton healthier than what these get and where it comes from, all they care about is the money, not what's healthy for our kids.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

In many cases this ban would be a bad idea.
In some schools however it is the only way to be sure that everyone has some lunch at all. Making everyone eat school lunch means you don't know who can and can't afford to bring food for mid-day.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Sheesh! Big Brother much?? Government is getting waaay to involved in people's every day lives in this country....creeeeeepy...

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think this is a really dumb idea. It might be better in the short term so that kids will eat healthy but it will not solve the long term problem of Americans eating unhealthy foods. My fiance was one of those kids who bought lunch every single day throughout his school years and even now at 25 he doesn't know how to pack a lunch for work. I brought my lunch from home and it was maybe a handful of times that I ever bought food at the school cafeteria. Being served healthy food is always a good thing but learning how to make that food is something else entirely since it's not the end product that is as important as the ingredients put in. If poor quality ingredients are used, then you get a poor quality meal no matter how healthy it's suppposed to be for you and the kids won't learn that unless they learn to make it themselves.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I grew up in Italy. My primary school had a canteen. Everything was cooked on the premises and menus were designed by the city council nutritionists. They were extremely healthy. They contained a lot of fresh food and food safety standards were very high. There was no choice on food, but there were two courses served at any meal, Italian style, so there was almost always something you would eat. Special food needs were catered for. Nobody brought lunches from home - I think it was forbidden to bring in food from outside.

I hated eating there of course: most of the food was just boring and my mum is such a great chef so anything she prepared was better. Ditto for my sister. But with hindsight I think it was great for educational purposes. We had to learn to make do with what was given - it was not fancy food, but it was healthy and good, in the end. All children ate the same food, no matter what their ethnic origin or wealth level, and complaining about it was a great socializing force. I'm not sure it shaped my relationship with food in any way: I now eat everything, my sister is a very picky eater. Probably most kids were not consistently chewing on sweet treats, a habit we both don't have, which is good. But even better is that I think it was educational in a broader sense than 'just' food.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Before I comment about the article, I want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I have also really been enjoying your articles on elementary school lunch experiences in Japan. It is very interesting to read how other cultures approach educating children on food.

I read this article a couple of days ago, and I thought it was outrageous! I have a child in elementary school, and to be honest, I really don't think much of the menus. They seem to be very heavy on grease and cholesterol. If that school's lunches are anything like ours, I certainly would not want my child to be forced to eat them.

However, the thing that I find most unbelievable is the fact that this school would presume to nanny a whole bunch of parents as well. Ok, yes, some parents do send their kids in with Lunchables everyday (which I would never do), but the last time I checked, this was not a crime, and people were allowed to live as they please.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is just really stupid. When I was in elementary school everyone ate the same thing and it was awful, and expensive. My parents couldn't afford the lunches and never asked for handouts so my mom made our lunches, a simple sandwich (cheap lunch meat with mayonnaise) with an apple and cookie. That same home lunch continued through to junior and high school where the school-provided lunches transformed themselves into pizza, hamburgers and fries and a couple other things. Never any variety. The serving area was tiny for a school with over 1000 students.
Banning food from home is very unhealthy and places a burden on those who can't afford it, or don't want charity. I have no idea how they'll be able to enforce it.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

My first reaction is that this is really sad. I grew up in France where school lunches were really healthy, and I agree with Lnchou that there is not really a culture of bringing your own lunch in France. My mother now works in a cantine, and they always serve one raw vegetable as a starter and a cooked vegetable with the main course. They also have "la semaine du goût" (the taste week) during which the children (aged 3 to5) taste unusual vegetables/sauces or unusual combinations of taste.

This article sadly reminded me of the situation in England, where poor Jamie Oliver attempted to educate children on how to eat well, having to resolve himself to the fact that it was too late for the parents. The most shocking episode of the series was when children were banned the junk food which was usually served in the school cantine, and mothers were giving the kids fish and chips though he gates to their children (vive la révolution!!) Most children had no idea was vegetables were or where bacon came from... They had been given the worst start in life, and like Annie said, they still chose the unhealthy option.

I also worked in the UK where in the cantine they served peas, sweetcorn or baked beans as vegetables... I consider all these as carbs!!!

If it is proven that all the parents gave junk food to their kids every day at school, maybe it is the solution to ban home food. Personally I would pack my children home cooked food to ensure that they eat healthy food which is to their taste, nutritious, and which does not make them want to sleep. If the children are provided with crisps and soda and fuel for the afternoon classes, the teachers have to deal with the mood swings, the tiredness, lack of concentration, etc..

But then of course there is the cost issue...

I think the most useful and productive thing would be to educate parents, let them know what their children need, and if they do not do it, they can be "punished" on an individual basis (and very school like!!) and they have to pay for their children's lunch. That could be an incentive for the parents and children to work together for a better future.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

My former high school has very lousy lunches. The servings are extremely small (to save money. My mother who was working there at the time would get in trouble for adding a little extra...). One of the lunch ladies makes such small servings (like one tablespoon) that no one would pick up the tray. From that perspective I would have to say that the school lunches are either worse (most likely) or at least the same as the worse thing you could bring from home (at least then you are full...).

What gets me the most is that the US government officially classed the potato as a veggie. So the school added a piece of bread to the lunches so that the students get their carbs...

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

If this happened at my kid's school, I'd get a doctor's note. The school lunches are horrible, all packaged foods, with unidentifiable ingredients... My son gets a healthy lunch every day from home. Also they only get about 15 min to eat lunch, if he had to stand in line to get the lunch, he would have even less time to eat.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

What your kids eat is up to you as a parent, not the school system. I send a lunch every day with my 4 year to her babysitters house and have sent her food since she was born. I will do the same when she starts school.

That is outragous and oversteps a schools authority. We as parents should not stand for it. There is no ban on school lunches were I am, but if one started I would fight it tooth and nail and mobilize as many with me as possible. We as parents have to stand up for ourselves and our kids. A lot of parents where I live homeschool there kids (to include my sister and sister in law), and for reasons like this where the school has gone to far.

Northern Virginia, USA

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think this is crazy! If the school wants to 'protect students from their own unhealthful food choices' then a school guideline for school lunches should be established. We live in Richmond, BC, Canada and my daughter's lunch options are to bring a lunch from home or to go home for lunch. We do a mixture of the two. My daughter proudly takes a bento to kindergarten with her, just as my husband takes one to work. They love them and I love making them. I know my family will have a healthy, balanced lunch in good portion sizes that they will eat. My daughter would likely not eat a school lunch. Thankfully, the school does not have a cafeteria at all.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

In high school, I LOVED that my parents let me have lunch money, to do what I wanted with it every day. I didn't care for the school lunch options. Which were not appetizing by the way. There were vending machines and 3 different little "market" stations the school had inside (seperate from the offered school lunch), that you could spend money at, that offered SO many options, healthy or not. It was great! Sure I purchased mostly junk anyway, but I was a kid. My parents gave me freedom of choice with that lunch allowance. They never told me not to buy this or that with the money they gave me. Now I'm an adult and choose to eat better to keep healthy. Oops!- I make choices, someone may be watching!
It hacks me off that people get themselves into such a fit to see that people can choose for themselves and they want to regulate those choices. Wow,... just.... WOW

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I never ever ate school lunches in Elementary school or Junior high. I was homeschooled during high school and I still ate better then what the school was offering.

It makes no sense to ban homemade lunches, school lunches aren't much better and they honestly taste terrible. I hope they're making the staff eat those lunches too otherwise that principal is a hypocrite.
It seems like it makes more sense just to ban soda, chips and other unhealthy treats. Send a letter home to the parents. Offer a nutrition seminar of some kind, teach nutrition to the children. The best way to combat unhealthy choices is to teach the healthy ones.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think its ridiculous. The school lunches have no more chance of getting nutrition in than parents do packing their kids lunches.

I'm dismayed to see so many people think so lowly of the school lunches. Is the state across the US that bad?

My mom is a cafeteria worker in a high school that still makes their own food. She makes subs with veggies, lots of fresh pastas, even turkey burgers and baked fries. Even the chicken nuggets are baked instead of fried, and the coating is made with part vegetables and part bread to try and get some nutrition in. And the pizza's made with a whole wheat crust, veggies, and turkey pepperoni, and they even make one with veggie crumbles on it instead of sausage that's quite good. They stopped selling regular pop, sugary flavored water, and brought in juices and regular bottled waters. While they do sell monster cookies, its about the only unhealthy thing left - and even the cookies have whole wheat dough with carob chunks instead of chocolate.

Their sales keep climbing, and the kids keep eating it. They haven't had any sales problems. In fact, her location won an award for most profitable in her district.

So I'm continually baffled as to why these schools stick with crap, and then insist its healthy. But its CPS, they're like that. This is the school district that said their kids couldn't eat the food they grow in their school garden. Until someone sues, they're not going to change.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Do parents really have the legal right to do whatever they want to their children? Don't the children have the right of access to nutritious food in their own capacity as people, regardless of the parents' income, education, and abilities?

That said, I am not sure that the current purchasing and preparation chain for school lunches make the school system an adequate or appropriate duty-bearer. I didn't eat school lunches very often as a public school student in the US - my mother said that while it was a pain to get up early to make our lunches, it was better than dealing with us after we'd had nothing to eat all day besides french fries and hot dogs from the school cafeteria. The only produce I remember eating from that cafeteria were canned baked apples. This was opposed to my mother's lunch, which was always whole wheat bread, fruit, cheese, carrot sticks or another vegetable with some dressing, and a little bitty container of some otherwise-forbidden treat, like cheetos. In our case, my mother was able to put time, thought, and money into packing our lunches. For many of my classmates, the subsidized school lunch program, lacking though it was, had time, money, and energy that their own families might not have.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think the point of the objections is missed. The idea that a school board made of less than a dozen people can take away the CHOICE of parents who prefer to feed their own food to their own children. Somehow the idea that parents are responsible for their offspring has come under attack from some segments of our society. I believe this issue is directly related to Obama-care and that business model. In order for the schools to get government subsidies for lunches they must meet minimum headcount requirements. The more students who participate, the more money the school will get. The problem is that participation must remain voluntary, not mandated. The government and its extensions (the schools) arguably have too much control over my children already -- i.e., textbooks and curriculum that omit historical facts and teach through an ideological prism rather than the truth.

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