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

I just want to speak up for the US-- I'm 36 years old, and from Atlanta, GA (the deep south, ha ha!). My public elementary school lunches were awesome-- my favorites were tacos, shepherd's pie, fish fillets with mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese with collard greens! I also loved the strip of "government cheese" or the orange juice popsicle we'd sometimes get on the side, to round out the four food groups. Salad, fruit and milk were included with every lunch. Yeah, we had pizza, too... we also had homemade rolls and desserts like icebox lemon pie, cinnamon rolls, and rice pudding.
It wasn't as good as what we had at home, but it was handmade by our lunch ladies. Amazingly, I don't remember too many of us being overweight.
I really pity kids these days!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Yes. I've posted about this elsewhere in response to this article: When I was a young 'un, my school served the same food kids were getting at home, prepared by people who knew how to cook. Granted, it was all on the cheap side and a lot of it came out of cans or boxes, but we got hamburger-and-vegetable soup made from scratch, piles of seasoned green beans, fresh oranges that had no blemishes, and so on.

The shrink-wrapped pre-made stuff at that school lunch blog is horrifying. Not even the airlines would dare to serve that crap.

Oh, and as for food waste--the staff took home the leftovers from the school kitchen, because they were things that people actually wanted to eat. Does that happen anymore?

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I was outraged until I saw that this wasn't a grade school. But since older kids generally don't want to take lunches their parents pack them - yeah, they aren't going to make very good lunch decisions on their own. So, I'm a little on the fence about this one. I think it's still ridiculous to limit choices.

I used to work for a fast food store down the street from my town's High School, and lunch rush was full of teenagers ordering a large fry and a large diet soda.

If the school lunches were actually EDIBLE, then I wouldn't have a problem with the policy. But we all know that forcing kids to stand in line for food they won't eat just contributes to the massive American problem of Food Waste.

And that is the difference between letting a teen bring bad choices for lunch, or throwing out the food forced on them that they won't eat anyway. Nutrition has nothing to do with it, if the kids aren't actually EATING the 'good' food.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

It IS a grade school. It runs from grades k - 8.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Personally I always had healthy lunches (brown bread sandwiches, an apple and either a juice box or a milk carton), but thinking back on the lunches my classmates brought from home... some were mostly candy... Our high school cafeteria sold mostly candy and junkfood as well... I remember I was actually in my 6th year when they started serving healthy breadrolls (and they were more expensive than the unhealthy snacks!)... in the Netherlands usually only high schools have cafeterias, by the way, though elementary schools may provide fresh milk, for a fee.
Some elementary schools here provide longer lunch breaks, though, where parents can choose to either give their child a packed lunch or pick them up and have lunch at home (and go back to school after).

The initiative of these school directors seems kind of overkill to me, though. I agree that unhealthy lunches shouldn't be accepted, but to ban all home-made lunches is just a bridge too far. Although checking every single lunchbox would be too much work, of course, especially in schools with larger classes (I remember mine in elementary school was over 25 students, with only one teacher). I do hope, however, that parents aren't forced to pay additional fees now, seeing as they don't have any choice to have their child eat a home-made meal, which may be cheaper.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

That's ridiculous! Every school lunch I've had has been extremely unhealthy! And since this is probably a public school, my question is, do they have the right to do that? I don't think so...

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Another form of high school lunch to add to the list: We didn't have a cafeteria, but we had lines and windows. The stuff you could get from there looked about the standard fare of a roach coach, with a bit more grease and a bit less taste - we used to have to use two napkins to soak up the extra pizza grease before it was ediable.

That's not the funny part. The funny part was that we had a line for students from low-income families - commonly ferrred to as the Well-Fare Line, though it had a longer, more PC name. If you weren't on their program of free lunches, you could go in that line and pay a $1.00 for a small tray (the kind they serve fish and chips in), and fill it up with yogurt, nuts, fruit, and salad. However much you could fit in there and then have a juice or milk for free. They had a couple of choices of meat and other things like pasta dishes and personal pizzas, depending on the day, and those cost extra, but I could spend three dollars and have two full meals. My friends who were too proud to use that line or just really wanted the junk food, spent about twice that much.

With the Chicago school, on one hand, I can see the good this is trying to accomplish. On the other hand, the reality does not support the idea. Even in that Well-Fare Line where it was a better chioce, it still wasn't of the best quality. And like so many of stated already, the schools just don't have the budget for healthy foods, not the time to prepare them. And they said the school will allow children with allergies to bring their own lunches? What if someone's a vegan with no allergies? Surely the school can't make room in the budget for a string of vegan meals that most likely, no one but vegan kids will eat themselves.

Now, if it was possible, maybe they could start a program with the students where they have gardens and maintain them on campus. This way, they could cut down on food prices, teach kids about growing food and having more apperication for it, and all that. This is probably another idea that won't be supported by the reality of the situation, but hey, at least it's better than "as parents, you have no idea what is healthy for your child."

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I am a student, currently. And I would - as a parent or a student - be outraged by this choice.

Scratch that, I am outraged. This measure is irrational. I don't know what it's like in Chicago, but my school lunches look and taste disgusting. Worse: they are not healthy. The lunches are usually frozen, taste of salt, and are in general unhealthy. There's rubbery pizza with a lot of oil. Peanut butter and jelly loaded up with sugar. Milk that has not finished thawing.
Besides the health factor, there are a lot of other problems. One: Parents' responsibility is being robbed. If they cannot feed their child for lunch, this may affect how they cook for other meals. They may find it easier to simply get fast or frozen foods; if they can't cook for lunch, why cook at all? Second: Physical activity is an important aspect of retaining a proper Body Mass Index (BMI). The school officials should work on making the students more active. Third: How does the government have this much power over what we eat? Why should the government refuse parents from making lunches, of which some may be healthy? When I am a parent, I plan to feed my kid well. Why should my child and I be penalized for another's bad health choice?

It is sad how kids will not be able to bond over their similar cartoon character lunch boxes. Instead, they will be part of the bleak monotony of plastic lunch trays.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think that this seems a bit rediculous. Ever High School I have ever been to has a junk machine and a pop machine somewhere on campus. I understand that some families or students do not make good food choices, but that shouldn't mean that all students should be under strict rules. I would continue to bring my own lunch to school regardless of what the school is allowing. Enough people continuing to break the rules will allow for some change. If the school can provide 100% nutritional lunches and snack for students then maybe they would have a leg to stand on. They had better have nationally accredited nutritionist and dieticians writing out the menus and then there is still no gaurantee that the kids will eat what they are given. I don't really think this principle completely thought it out.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is totally ridiculous.

1. What about children with moral or religious dietary restrictions? The article only says students with medical needs can be exempts but what about the kosher kids or the vegetarians. I know when I was in school the school lunch *usually* wasn't vegetarian - and there was no alternative.

2. Are the parents going to be expected to *pay* for that? School lunches usually cost more than packing a PBJ. Often a *lot* more. What about a parent who doesn't qualify for that but just doesn't have an extra 2$ a day in their budget? Is that kid just not going to get to eat? How is that more nutritious?

3. What about kids who are super active vs. kids who aren't? Are the kids going to be allowed to have seconds? I used to pack myself an extra sandwich on days I had swim practice - doesn't sound like these kids will have that option.

4. Parents should choose what their kids eat. I'm not saying the school shouldn't provide a health alternative - some parents just don't have the time or energy - but my packed lunches were *always* healthier than what the school provided and I highly doubt they're serving something radically different these days.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Here's a great example of what happens when a U.S. school cafeteria tries to serve an actual meal: Chop suey. My junior and high schools served this greyish brown, foul-smelling, gelatinous, quivering mess atop overboiled Uncle Ben's. It looked like something a dog wouldn't touch. There was not an identifiable vegetable or type of meat in it. There was STUFF in it, to be sure, but the point was that you couldn't tell. As far as I know, no one ever ate it. The kids referred to it as "chopped sewage."

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Read the article again, and pay close attention to this part:

"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."

Someone wise once said, "When the question is 'why?', then the answer is usually 'money'." By making school lunches mandatory, the food provider makes more money. And from reading the kid's quotes, you can tell that quality and taste are not priorities. Nor is nutrition, if they allow the kids to throw away the food and go hungry.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think there is an aspect of this that has been missed. While the school insists this is an effort to provide nutritional lunches and fight the growing problem of obesity, it fails to tell the whole story. After hearing this I was just as out raged as most of you. What right does a school system have to dictate your parenting choices? At this point i decided do more research. I looked up this school on the web and found this website http://www.publicschoolreview.com/school_ov/school_id/24391
If the stats on this site are accurate, this has nothing to do with food and everything to do with money. This school is 99% hispanic and 1% other (Please don't read into this, I'm only quoting) The communities Median income is $28000, 8% are college educated, and median age of homes is 69 years. This is a poorer community The school scores lower in testing scores than IL avg.
Now most Americans think Hispanic food is Taco Bell, starchy, greasy and unhealthy. But having known several Hispanic people. There is a lot of very healthy Latin food that these children are bringing to school. By this point I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with this. If you look at the stat you will see that 99% of the students will qualify for the free lunch program. This program is funded by the Federal government. If you can make the kids eat lunch at school and only have 1 percent that is not funded, you can use that money to fund other programs. That's right, Money.
If this school really had students health in mind why not classes on health and nutrition. (and I mean more than these are the food groups,you figure out what to do with them) Or better yet 30 min to an hour of group exercise a day. But don't tell us, forcing children to eat processed food that is served in schools is the best thing for there health. Sorry for the length of this, but as you can see I don't have any strong feelings about this.;)

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Michelle Obama's initiative to get kids active and eating healthfully is good at a glance, but things like this make me twinge. I suppose we must understand ourselves and our society as having and perpetuating bad eating and lifestyle habits. My grandfather drank and smoke in front of my mother and uncle, and sure enough my uncle's a mess and my mother's a veritable chimney at a delicate age. Perhaps it is for the best that the state encourage new, healthful habits in today's children, rather than allowing parents who might send them off without a glance charge of their lunch (which, when my mother wasn't looking, I'd load with a fluffernutter, a can of coke, gummy bears and maybe a little pixie dust if I traded with someone on the bus).

When I was in elementary school, the school lunches were considered unhealthy, and most responsible parents would stuff our bags with PBJs, carrots and juice while we looked on in agony. We used to envy the kids who could go to the cafeteria and pick up choco milk and soft pretzels.

By the time I got to high school, little had changed except by that point kids were hopping in cars to get burgers and Mexican across the way.

I suppose the most important thing is our attitude toward food, and I know children in America, particularly the East Coast and Southeast, seem to have terrible habits. Until we change that, maybe we need a bit of a push from the government toward something that won't shorten our lives (mine is the first generation expected to live shorter lives than our parents--pretty terrifying!)

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I was always allowed the choice growing up, and always chose to bring my own lunch.

There's a lot of regional variation on this issue in Japan. When I was teaching junior high school in Japan, school lunch was mandatory for everyone, students and teachers. This is fine for most kids, but it was a problem for kids with various health problems that required different arrangements, which become more frequent with the onset of puberty and body changes. Bringing one's own lunch wasn't even an option unless the parents were willing to get a note from the doctor describing the reason that could then be read out in front of the class. Since the reason for many of the affected children was "being overweight and not needing a 1,000+ calorie lunch every day," there was understandable reluctance to take this step for many parents. Similar permission was needed to eat less than the required amount every day as well. I saw several parents go head to head with teachers over making their kids eat too much.

My husband is an elementary school teacher, and he put on 20 kilos in the first year because he was expected to finish what the students couldn't to set a good example about cleaning your plate, not wasting food, etc. Then his doctor told him he was on the fast track to diabetes town and he just stopped eating rice at school all together. (We eat brown rice at home.) Contrary to his school's expectations, the kids understood perfectly well when he said that he wasn't eating rice to get rid of his "metabo," and didn't translate that into thinking they didn't have to eat rice. Now every year he just makes his metabo speech at the beginning of the school year, and then makes sure the kids give him only one cup of rice, instead of the 2-3 that the students get. The lunch lady hates him for it, but at least he's healthy.

Talking to people from other regions, I think our district's approach to lunch is quite a bit stricter than in other places. I've never heard of an elementary or junior high student being allowed to bring a lunch without express written permission and a doctor's note.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

My kids' school has a "farm to school" program and has really improved the nutritional content of their lunches. I doubt they would ever try to ban lunches from home-- there would be too much of an uproar from parents. My kids go through phases where they want to bring lunch most of the time, or buy most of the time. My youngest doesn't really like the school lunches at all so it would be horrible if he were forced to buy.

Now, I do travel to a head start program for work (govt funded preschool for low-income families) and breakfast and lunch are served in the classrooms and outside food is not allowed. It has actually been very good for some of the kids I work with--they are special needs kids and many have sensory issues that have caused them to be very picky eaters. When they see their class mates eating green beans or cabbage or noodles they are more likely to try it. The meals there do seem to be pretty healthy and they have an impressive range of vegetables that they serve.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

ttp://djfokis.com/blog/archives/58543 [edited so that the link is not clickable - maki]

someone has lifted your article with no credit to you. i thought i would let you know…

thank you for the article, it was very interesting. by chance, i found the prior link from some research done after reading your post, which piqued my curiosity.


Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Thanks for letting me know... I dunno what to do about these idiots who don't know what 'copyright' and 'attribution' even mean. That whole blog is just posts filched from other places. May they die due to obscurity.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

American school cafeteria food is NOTORIOUSLY unhealthy and gross. It's a trope in nearly every American TV show, movie, or book about school-age children--unidentifiable cafeteria food and grumpy old lunch ladies with a smoker's cough.

But there's been a lot of backlash in the last few years about school lunches and a lot of pushing to make them healthier. I remember my high school eventually stopped selling soda and fried snacks and built a salad bar, but the regular lunches remained unhealthy and unappealing. And the standard packed lunch here isn't much better.

I know a lot of other schools have made serious reforms and really tried to make cafeteria food healthier, and if this school is one of those, then I think that this is great, actually--as long as they make provisions for low-income families. I would probably be upset if I HAD to pay for lunch, but now that I think about it, by the end of my schooling I was buying lunch every day anyway.

My kids go to a school where

My kids go to a school where packing lunch is not allowed- a warm lunch is part of the school day- and I am fine with us. In our case, it's because of religious dietary requirements and a disinclination to ensure that what is brought in is not forbidden to some students. I knew it when I enrolled my kids (in this public school) and it was something I agreed with.
But their meals are great- I have been there and eaten them to be certain:-). Not high cuisine, but healthy and decently made. I also appreciate the inculcation of societal norms in eating: for example, in this country, if you put it on your plate, one either eats it or eats nothing else. Some children come from cultures where filling the plate and throwing it out is acceptable and this helps them learn that it is not acceptable here.
I also think it is wonderful that all children are assured a warm, nutritious and filling meal: this is one way to be certain that they have it.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Wow, my first thought was that it was some kind of money-grab thing on the school's part. Unless they are offering free food, I can't see how they'll manage to make it stick.

Our elementary schools don't have cafeterias, though they do allow you to order either pizza or a sub one day a week. The high school cafeteria at my school served burgers, fries, frozen pizza etc. I think a bagel with half an inch of cream cheese was about the healthiest thing they offered. Not to mention it was pretty expensive. We usually only ate there one day (Banquet Burger Wednesday.) Last time I was there, the cafeteria was actually leased out to a catering company, so the school had no real say over what was served or prices, it was a business for the people running it.

I think if it was me, I'd pretend my kids both suddenly developed a food allergy.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I live in the suburbs of Chicago and I can tell you that this move by the school has absolutely NOTHING to do with health concerns. It has everything to do with the fact that the school gets government subsidies for every student they have to feed. The whole thing is a money grab thinly veiled with the good intentions of making kids eat healthy.

I believe these people in the school board aught to be fired immediately. They have NO RIGHT telling parents that they are not feeding their own children correctly.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Personally, I feel like the ban is a bad idea. My box lunches were always a lot healthier than whatever slop the school had. I think a better idea would be to have a thing for parents where they're educated on healthy food choices for their children so they can have the knowledge to buy and send good lunches with their children. Besides, the school lunches, even if they are healthy tend to look gross and don't taste very good, whereas homemade lunches can look and taste wonderful.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

It is all about the Benjamins! Quite interesting how this happens just as schools all over the country are getting large federal budget cuts. They needed to expand their customer base in the cafeteria, and home-brought lunches were the competition.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I can say nothing more 'then that ticks me off".

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I'm a teacher, I remember what school lunch was like as a student, and I know what it's like now: TERRIBLE. I'm lactose-intolerant, it's not an allergy, but maybe they'd try to convince me or my lactose-intolerant daughter how healthy their sugar-filled juice is. Maybe they'd tell my Muslim and Jewish friends to deal with the selection of foods that include ham - even if it goes against their beliefs (same with food that isn't Kosher or Halal). I know they've yet to convince me that the food there is any good. The only time I would eat cafeteria food was middle school, because I didn't want to appear uncool being the only kid with a lunchbox. I Remember buying their horrible pizza and wanting to throw up, deciding to buy food from the salad bar, not liking it, and spending my lunch money on chips and brownies instead (real healthy). In high school, they offered food from McDonald's, Subway, and various pizza places - but since the sandwiches were all pre-packaged and I couldn't stand pickles, onions, or mustard - I'd always end up getting pizza or some kind of burger. It was better than having to eat their cafeteria food again!

I can't speak for the whole country, but at least in Miami, I'm glad kids can still bring food from home. Chicago needs to rethink this or make sure their offering something EDIBLE.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Well, they legally cannot say that, because that qualifies as a breach of their Continental rights. How many parents are going to now say that their kids aren't going to eat during school, period, because they can't afford it? And as for the meals being better - that's a total steaming pile of lies. My school served nothing but deep fried stuff and fast food delivered by the local drive-through's. There were no healthy options, and I gained over 40 pounds in my first semester of highschool because of that. And the food they the caf made was either raw, frozen, or had gone bad. So this is just a way for the school to get more money to spend on their football team.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I currently go to high school in Seattle, and if the school lunches in Chicago are anything like the school lunches here, that is really just one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. The meat is usually undercooked or severely overcooked, as is nearly anything else, raw vegetables are usually wilted, and any fruit very bruised and/or over-ripe. I remember it being worse in elementary and middle school as well. Yes, an effort is being made to make it healthier, nutritionally, but if this is the quality of food, it hardly matters. If my classmates and I had to not bring in lunches from home, I think that many of us would just not eat during the day. I would think it to be rather insulting to myself as well, since a unit on nutrition is required in our health class by the state. All in all, older students will probably sneak off campus to go to a fast food restaurant anyway.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Love him or hate him, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said right after the tobacco lawsuit settlement in 1998 the next target government agencies will go after is the food industry.

This new rule in Chicago is proof he's right. We're reaching a point where we're going to head down a slippery slope of the government dictating what foods we can eat and how much we can eat per day--no thanks!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I don't recall many "healthy" options for school lunches when I was at school. I mean they would serve a little heap of overcooked veggies with whatever else we ate, but nobody touched that stuff. In high school there was a little tiny salad bar, but the overwhelming majority ate pizza, ham and cheese, pasta, pizza, hamburgers, and lots of french fries. Now I don't know what this school's menu looks like, but banning lunches from home sounds like a well-meaning policy that will go horribly wrong. They really out to put down some restrictions on what kids can bring in, but otherwise I don't buy this idea.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I teach Kindergarten in Hawaii in an elementary school where over 80% of children qualify for the free and reduced lunch program due to low income. All of the children in my class eat our school lunch, and most also eat a free breakfast at school. We are fortunate that there are no vending machines available to students. We provide a hot breakfast or a choice of yogurt, cereal and fruit with milk each morning. At lunch, we have the inevitable chicken nuggets or other mystery meat product once a week or so, but they are always balanced out on the plate with a fresh green salad, fruit, freshly baked whole wheat roll, and often a steamed vegetable with milk. On other days we have delicious dishes cooked on site such as roast turkey, baked chicken, fish filet, or pasta with veggies.

On the rare occasions that a child brings a "home lunch", it has been Lunchables, or a bag of chips and a soda along with some candy, or a single hamburger from the local drive-inn and a sports drink. The number of children in my class with advanced tooth decay is alarming. We try to educate parents about making healthy choices for their children in diet, personal care, and exercise, but habits are hard to break.

The ban on lunches from home is a bad idea. But perhaps banning only the items that are unhealthy (like the soda and candy that are decaying their teeth) would be a realistic solution that could help students who are learning to make unhealthy choices at a young age.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

What if everyone who wrote what a horrible idea this is, instead of yelling about it here and making sure to protect their own took that energy and made US school lunches wonderful, healthy meals that students all shared together once a day, no matter what the financial background? Wouldn't the world be a better place?

Why this school is doing what it is doing and how it is doing it is questionable. But I really want to point out that if everyone HAD to participate in the system, it would probably HAVE to change, and there would be more energy to change it. If it's just THOSE people who have to suffer through a free or reduced lunch from a cafeteria, and the kids who have parents who can pack healthy lunches from home skip it, do the cafeteria lunches change? Are there options for religious minorities at the cafeteria if they all pack their lunches as a matter of course? Are there vegetarian options if vegetarians never pick up a lunch tray? It's a vicious cycle to try to get out of.

If tomorrow everyone had to eat at a cafeteria, would the food be great? No, I'm not that fluffy-headed. But if it started tomorrow, I think in five years the changes would be radical and beautiful. Allowing people to opt out if they don't agree can weaken and worsen the whole system.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I agree. Change needs to happen! While the people on this forum are all willing and able to care for their children`s dietary needs, many are not. Childhood obesity is a problem. The solution is not to just keep things the same.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

so, there saying school lunch is healthier? *Laugh* At my school, they have PIZZA with so much grease that when i do get it *rarely* i mop it up with my napkin! they aslo have fries, chese filled bread sticks, chese burgers, and hot pockets! UGH! I wouldn't mind having a school lunch every day if it was healthy, as well as being delicious like a bento.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

School administrators should concentrate on education and not dictating how people should live their lives.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

That is absolutely ridiculous! As a high schooler, I can tell you from experience that American kids today will bypass the "healthy" options that the cafeteria puts out and go straight for the fries and bags of chips. At least students who don't understand the value of nutritional food are somewhat "forced" into eating healthy food if they bring lunch that they or their parents make at home.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I'd pack Junior's lunch anyway, just like my mom did - Bologna sandwich on white bread, bag of Fritos and a pack of cigarettes... Those were the days!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Personally, if I were a mother this would really tick me off. Sure, some mothers pack unhealthy lunches but it really should be the parent's choice to pack one or not. Furthermore, I don't know what Chicago school lunches are like but when I grew up, school lunches were extremely unhealthy processed foods...

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This is outrageous. Where is there "excellent quality food" in public schools? If it's anything like the food they serve in my public high school, they don't have any grounds to say this. The food at my high school literally has more grease than the fast food restaurants here and has occasionally made me ill when I eat it. I hope I don't sound like I'm ranting, but this is why I always take my own lunch to school. Thank you for posting this, or else I never would have read about it.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

As a child, my family moved around the US quite a bit. Between preschool and the end of high school, I went to eight different schools. I saw a lot of cafeteria food, and most of it was pitiful. Limp veggies that you could tell had food colour dumped on them to make them more colourful, mushy pasta that tasted more like paste, and the dreaded unidentifiable meat were staples in almost all of the schools I attended. I was one of those kids who qualified for reduced/free lunches in elementary/middle school. In the regular food lines (in which you had to stand and wait for at least 10 minutes), they would slop on some mushy pasta onto the plate and cover it with what was supposed to be a meat sauce. Then they would put a small bit of veggies and a carton of milk, completing the lunch. On the luckier days, it would be deep-fried chicken (supposedly) nuggets, french fries, applesauce and milk. None of these were healthy. The à la carte options were even worse, consisting of greasy pizza, nachos covered in fake cheese, more mushy pasta, soda, candy, or chips.

When I started high school, I started packing my own lunches. The first year or so, my lunch would consist of a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, without dairy (because it would have to sit in my locker for a couple of hours before I was able to eat it), some cut up fresh veggies (baby carrots, celery, etc usually), and I'd grab a soda or a water from the vending machine in the cafeteria. This was a lot better than the pathetic options my high school had (which were mass produced lunch, or a salad bar with iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing only). Halfway though my 2nd year of high school, I discovered bento, which helped me to balance my meals in a better manner. Six years, and most of a university education later, I'm still packing bentos over eating in the school cafeteria when I can^^

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I think it all comes down to money. The government reimburses the school $2.83 per lunch, while the average cost per lunch is $1.80. What are schools doing with that extra $1.00, which, by the way, comes from taxpayers.

If you were running a business where you cost of goods was $1.00, but the government was giving you a $2.00 subsidy, I daresay you'd want to grow that business!

And p.s., I don't know what all the whining is about from the schools. I can make a wholesome healthy lunch for less than $1.00 per child, and that's with only 2 kids! So when I hear the schools complaining that they can't serve nutritious food for less than that, I do not believe it. The schools must be taking the food subsidy and spending it elsewhere, while whoever is buying food for the school system is either incompetent, or getting ripped off by suppliers.

Bottom line -
1. the schools can do much more with much less, if they cared to.
2. we don't need a self-righteous and slightly paunchy celebrity chef from the UK mocking us
3. most parents will do the right thing when armed with knowledge, and you don't lower the standards of the vast majority to accomodate the few laggards. Instead, you raise the standards of the few.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I live in Canada and until recently, my local high school sold the standard hamburgers, fries, candy and soft drinks with very little in the way of healthy food options. But in the past year, I found out that the school system had banned the selling of junk food items in their schools and now the cafeteria only stocks sandwiches, soups and other healthy meals. Vending machines still exist in the school, but instead of selling a Kit Kat bar or a can of Pepsi, the machines stock Milk to Go (flavoured milk drinks), fruit juice, granola bars and trail mix. You can also see this change reflected in vending machines in sports arenas, malls and other public places as well. There is a cultural push to eat healthier.

It's not quite the same as banning home lunches - but in a way, it is a step towards providing healthier alternatives. Certainly, some children still bring unhealthy products into the school, but for when the kids get hungry during the day or after school when they don't have any alternatives, at least they'll be forced to pick from a bunch of healthy products instead of sugar or salt loaded items.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

That's infuriates and disgusts me. A school has no right to ban home lunches. A school has no right to police students body. I don't understand how it can even be legal, because school lunches aren't offered free; you have to pay for them, and they can be pretty expensive. Not all families can afford that. Even if the lunch was free the school still has no right to police students bodies! I'm a vegetarian and I have problems getting my basic nutritional needs met at school. A program like this is even discriminatory. This is a complete and blatant violation of rights and I'm sick and tired of schools sticking their nose in personal business. What I put in my body is my choice. And you know what? I make better nutritional choices than the licensed nutritionist at my school (no exaggeration). US schools offer absolutely horrid food for lunch. It's all pre-made, frozen crap, high in sodium, sugar, and fat, and low in fiber and protein. Chicken nuggets and tater tots, frozen pizza, hot dogs (Oh, the nitrites!) are *not* healthy foods. Those "healthy choice" coldcut subs? Yeah, not even that healthy. (Not that I'm judging anyone for these food choices. They are valid and I don't care what anyone puts in their body. But how dare the school try to say they are healthy.) This isn't even a food problem. This is a problem with schools trying to step into the home life and invade privacy. This kind of bs is a *huge* problem in the US.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

The public elementary schools in our township is at the extreme opposit of the spectrum from this school in Chicago. None of the 5 elementary schools serve any food. They don't have kitchens to prepare food. All the children must bring in a snack and a lunch from home.

We moved to this town because of the excellent reputation of the public school system. When I learned that we'd have to pack a lunch and snack everyday and that the elementary schools don't even have kitchens, I was very surprised and a bit upset about it. What do they do with the federal fund to feed children? The PTO does offer a catered lunch from a local deli, but it is extremely expensive. Four days of the week, a different catered lunch is offered, but it ranges from $4.50 to $6 per a lunch. I don't even spend that much on my own lunch! We pay extremely high property tax, 51% of which goes to the local schools, and they won't even provide my daughter with a healthy lunch.

My husband and I both have full time jobs. The extra task of having to prepare a home lunch and snack every single day bothered me quite a bit. However, now that I have packed her lunch for almost a whole school year, I've become pretty good at making creative healthy bento boxes for her. I know exactly what goes into her lunch. Fresh, local, organic (most of the time) and healthy ingredients will always taste better. She is only 5 years old, but loves a fresh salad of spring lettus mix with fresh crispy fuji apple slices, tomatoes, and a quick and simple balsamic vinegrette. I can't see any school serving anything like that to 5 year olds. Now I would prefer that she gets a lunch from home even if the school did provide lunch.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

From what I remember, school lunches were definitely NOT healthy. Even in high school, students rarely ate the regular school lunches because the food was "questionable" and instead opted for fast food or vending machine snacks. I can understand if the school is really making an effort to serve healthy lunches but banning students from bringing lunch from home is going too far. What if students can't afford school lunches? Or a student has food allergies or on a strict diet?

Growing up, my mom always made healthy lunches for me. I can understand if the school is worried about those parents that consistently feed their kids junk food but they're totally dismissing those parents that do feed their child healthy food. It's just really short sighted of the school to have implemented this ban. Have they even taken into consideration how this would impact parents and students in the long run? I doubt it...

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Just saw this and I am horrified. Even the so called healthy school lunches do not meet some of my standards. I don't allow my daughters to have artificial sweeteners. I also only use RGBH or anything that could transfer BPA since my daughter started showing early signs of puberty at 7. Also I am very suspicious of low fat and fat free versions of things that should be fatty. I'd rather limit the fatty foods and eat them as naturally as possible. And there are hard and fast rules that can get stupid. My daughter was not allowed to have seltzer because of the soda band -- no salt, sugar, calories but it was soda and soda is bad right? This is a pain because she never drinks enough and I use seltzer to keep her hydrated but she will drink water under pressure so it is jut inconvenient. I would seriously worry about her younger sister in a system like that. She us chronically underweight and we work hard to keep her gaining and growing ton maintain at least her 25th percentile line. I would not turn over her diet -- even one meal a day -- to a school unless they prepared a menu that was reviewed and approved by her pediatrician for her needs.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

Something a lot of people seem to be missing is that medical reasons are the only allowed exceptions. Religious and ethical--halal, kosher, vegetarian/vegan, ect.--are not considered exceptions.

More importantly, though, many school lunches in the US are not really that healthy--especially the vegetables. This has to do with how vegetables are traditionally prepared in the US, but the schools certainly do their best to demonstrate the worst of it. It is overcooked and the liquid it's cooked in is poured off--not only does this mean that the taste and texture is unappealing, it actually means a lot of it is potentially less healthy than, say, a Lunchables. Most of the nutrients in the vegetables that weren't destroyed by heat will have been leeched into the water, leaving behind what will be mostly fiber and not particularly appetizing.

Meanwhile, the Lunchables or even the soda-and-snack cakes duet will, on consumption, contain what the nutritional information box says it does--which might not be as much as the vegetables would have if they were properly prepared, but they're not properly prepared in any sense.

As a result, whatever flaws even the soda-and-snack-cakes option has, at least with those you're not teaching the kids to hate fruits and vegetables. My experience, like many others here, was that the least nausea-inducing options were the pizza and fries--the vegetables looked overcooked and/or wilted, and the fruit was perpetually under- or overripe when not preserved in sugar-syrup. The meat may actually have been not as often disliked, but it looked of mysterious source and I would be generally inclined to bet it was overcooked.

No matter how supposedly healthy the school lunch is, if you cannot make any part of it that is healthy appetizing, you're going to only make it worse.

But the really really important part, when it comes to obesity, is pretty simple--if it's not a defect in your digestive system or metabolism, you get fat by consuming more calories than you burn. It literally doesn't matter one bit if the food you eat is healthy or utter junk, as long as your body is processing everything correctly, if you eat more than you're burning you'll get fat.

Personally, though, I doubt that this is going to stand for long: there are lawyers who do for free the lawsuit this pretty much is begging for as soon as they can find a single Muslim, Jewish, Rastafarian, Hindu, or Buddhist student who is attending that school...

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

This absolutely appalls me! I am a firm believer in the "real food" revolution going on right now, and I wouldn't be caught dead feeding my children the faux nourishment schools pass off as food. Even if you don't really care what kind of blocks you're building your children's bodies out of, one should have the FREEDOM to choose whether or not they bring their own lunch. I'd be out of that district in a hurry!

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

I agree that this sounds a little intense but when I've worked with students in Chicago Public Schools, I did notice an excessive amount of eating Cheetoes and Coke for lunch... I wish instead of just banning foods, maybe they'd look at better educating the students and their parents about better food choices... but then again, we barely had enough time to fit in all the other stuff in the curriculum in the day...

Yes, it should be the parents' responsibility to make sure their kids are eatings healthfully. What happened to that? Not sure.

Basically, I think I'm trying to say that school is ROUGH in terms of dealing with kids and the choices made both in school and at home. It's the great equalizer, so a lot is expected of the school, but a lot of that stuff that's expected is really outside of the realm of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic.

Re: A school ban on bringing lunch from home

let me point this out. at my high-school and many others the food is not fresh, nor chemical free. all us lunches for public schools are shipped to them from warehouses that have the food frozen and the food can stay in those warehouse for month some have food that may be sevrel years old but because it is frozen the FDA allow this.
if you want to see what its like in america the best show to see is 'the food revolution' with Jamie Oliver. he not only gives facts but shows you how the food is maid. i only drink white milk at the school now and try to pack my lunch whenever possible. and the food has gotten better in the sense of taste. but only because they proses it and use oils that are unhealthy.

i am 17 and i know this is wrong what the school is doing. they make more money giving the cheep lunches rather than caring about the health of the students. and that goes for most every person from the head of public schools to the FDA.

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