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Chicago School Bans Lunches Brought From Home?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I think this is an interesting topic, considering last week’s conversation about healthy food for kids. A lot of us have lamented the idea that our healthy lunches for our children have to compete with both the school’s lunch offerings and the “lunch swaps” that kids participate in at their tables.

That being said… what if the only option available for your child was, in fact, what the school offered? Suddenly, the “school lunch” debate becomes a more interesting one, right?


A Little Village Academy student cringes at an enchilada dish served at his school. Many students throw away their entrees uneaten and say they would rather bring food from home. The school, though, does not allow students to bring in their own lunches, unless they have a medical condition or a food allergy. (Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune / February 17, 2011)

Fernando Dominguez cut the figure of a young revolutionary leader during a recent lunch period at his elementary school.

“Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?” the seventh-grader shouted to his lunch mates in Spanish and English.

Dozens of hands flew in the air and fellow students shouted along: “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!”

Fernando waved his hand over the crowd and asked a visiting reporter: “Do you see the situation?”

At his public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” 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.”

Carmona said she created the policy six years ago after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” on field trips for their lunch. Although she would not name any other schools that employ such practices, she said it was fairly common.

A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said she could not say how many schools prohibit packed lunches and that decision is left to the judgment of the principals.

“While there is no formal policy, principals use common sense judgment based on their individual school environments,” Monique Bond wrote in an email. “In this case, this principal is encouraging the healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom.”

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.

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

“Some of the kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast,” said Little Village parent Erica Martinez. “So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.”

“(My grandson) is really picky about what he eats,” said Anna Torrez, who was picking up the boy from school. “I think they should be able to bring their lunch. Other schools let them. But at this school, they don’t.”

But parent Miguel Medina said he thinks the “no home lunch policy” is a good one. “The school food is very healthy,” he said, “and when they bring the food from home, there is no control over the food.”

At Claremont Academy Elementary School on the South Side, officials allow packed lunches but confiscate any snacks loaded with sugar or salt. (They often are returned after school.) Principal Rebecca Stinson said that though students may not like it, she has yet to hear a parent complain.

“The kids may have money or earn money and (buy junk food) without their parents’ knowledge,” Stinson said, adding that most parents expect that the school will look out for their children.

Such discussions over school lunches and healthy eating echo a larger national debate about the role government should play in individual food choices.

“This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” said J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, which is partially funded by the food industry.

“Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?” Wilson said. “This is the perfect illustration of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again. Some parents may want to pack a gluten-free meal for a child, and others may have no problem with a child enjoying soda.” [source]

First, I’d be inclined to support this decision if I knew the school system was using the money to improve the quality of the children’s lunches to something that’d be far better than what they’d be able to receive from home.

We all know that’s not happening.

Secondly, let’s get a few things clear. Whenever a child takes a lunch from the school, the government reimburses that school a portion of the cost. The problem with this set up is the fact that very little of that money from the government winds up being reinvested in the school lunch system, because so many school systems are underwater as is.

That being said, this is why I bolded the following:

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.

If more students are taking the school’s lunch, that’s more money being poured into the school… and more money going to this particular food manufacturer. It’d be interesting to know whetheror not the provider has any ties to anyone in the school district.

Thirdly, what happens when the students can’t afford to purchase the lunch? I mean, if they’re all forced to purchase it and this is, in fact, a plot to bring in more money… what’s preventing them from simply upping the cost of the lunch, thereby forcing all the kids to go on free/reduced lunch? Is this an impoverished area? Can/could these houses withstand this additional cost? Just… I’m just curious.

So, here’s my question. If this entire thing is about healthy living and teaching people about healthy food… where is the teaching in all this? Can I hear about the school’s standards and definition of healthy? What if my standard is more rigorous than the Principal’s? Obviously, they’d make allowances for nut allergies or gluten allergies, but if it’s about education, can I hear about what kind of educating is taking place and who’s standard is being taught?

What do you think?

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Qalil Little April 11, 2011 - 2:03 PM

How can anyone trust corporations? They’re poisoning the water and the air we breathe, they’re injecting new chemicals into food and modifying it so it can grow bigger and faster.

I am VERY skeptical about the lunch program. I’d even hazard a guess that the school board is connected to the providers of lunch who are connected to some other diabolical corporation.

The sicker we are, the more likely we are to spend on health insurance and the more likely it is that we will stick in 9-5 jobs (instead of taking the risk of doing something else) to fund the insurance.

Until I hear otherwise I’m going to keep my side eye.

Grace April 11, 2011 - 2:10 PM

I want to be a mommy who packs my children’s lunch! I don’t think the school has the right to take that right away.

Shanna April 11, 2011 - 2:21 PM

There is a school in Lithonia Georgia where the prinicipal did the same thing a few years ago. Parents were upset, kids hated it. At first. Until suspensions and disciplinary actions went down. Grades went up. But by eliminating excess sugars, artifical preservatives etc from the kids lunches and making healthy eating a topic of conversation, the kids learned better. Isnt that the point?

And FYI when kids buy their own lunch from the cafeteria the school usually looses money. Only when they get reimburesed at the free/reduced lunch rate do they about break even. Doubt this is about money

Erika Nicole Kendall April 11, 2011 - 2:46 PM

But here’s the thing – what ARE the healthier choices? Or do they resemble some of the nightmares posted on the Fed Up With School Lunch project? That’s my question.

Because if it’s more processed crap, then… maybe the school shouldn’t take on the additional responsibility.

And to your $ point- that’s why I said “What’s to prevent the school from raising the price on lunch and causing more kids to apply for school lunch?” I’m not 100% certain of how things go on the school lunch end and am interested to learn, so I’d love it if those on the administrative end would share their knowledge of how that works. It looks really creepy on my end, but I don’t know enough to speak with more certainty.

nicole April 11, 2011 - 2:48 PM

First, I want to say that I don’t know this school district nor do I have personal knowledge of costs and etc. But that being said, school lunches in my area are actually much more affordable than packing a lunch. Andwhile they are not ideal in terms of nutrition, they are more often than not, healthier than the lunches most parents pack. Now, I don’t think the school shouldn’t ban lumches from home but I can understand ..especially considering how much of the slack schools are expected to pick up these days. But I doubt it’s a money issue. One of local papers printed the numbers for the local schools last year and it’s no cash cow. Seriously.

Randi April 11, 2011 - 2:51 PM

Maybe if the school lunch was actually healthy I’d agree but we all know most school lunch is an unhealthy, tasteless mess. My son is a 5th grader and has been taking his lunch to school since 1st grade. He got upset with the quality of the food being served and basically said most of it was inedible.

When he brings lunch to school he says his classmates always comment on what he’s eating and he usually shares. Mostly his lunch consists of a turkey sandwich or wrap wheat bread/wheat wrap, fruit,small salad (w/home made dressing..he refusing to eat bottled dressing from the store) and water (granola for snack). I know what he eats on a daily basis is 10 times more healthy than what the schools serve.

I also understand where the school is coming from. My son says most of his friends bring just chips/soda/fruit snack and a sub (from a local sub shop) to school for lunch. That also isn’t healthy. Most of the time the parents don’t know any better. His school recently banned any and all fruit snacks (rollups etc) and that caused an uproar.

Lily Fluffbottom April 11, 2011 - 2:55 PM

I remember how disgusting the food was back in school, and I would often skip meals or try to bring my own junk instead of having to deal with it. It was always really saddening when something that should have been delicious (pizza) ended up tasting like cardboard. Then your only choice at that point was to continue eating it, or throw it away and go hungry.

CJM April 11, 2011 - 3:18 PM

So this is how I understand school lunch. There are some districts where the rate of families living between 100 and 200% of poverty is so high that the district can basically become 100% free and reduced lunch. Parents no longer have to apply and the fed just reimburses the district based on the total number of kids in the district. The district may only pay the provider for meals served. Basically, the district comes out on top if some students bring their own lunches. There are other districts that are not 100% free and reduced and they may have unethical motivations to prohibit lunch from home. Here are the income guidelines for the coming school year http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/notices/iegs/IEGs11-12.pdf.

I think the whole not allowing kids to bring their own lunches in thing is a double edge sword. Yup there are a large number of kids that will come out nutritionally better if they eat what the school provides. District nutritional standards may not match my standards but they do provide a floor. But by doing this you mess up the kid coming from a home where dad might have packed a balanced mid day meal. I dunno.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 2:48 PM

CJM, That is not how it works. The government does not reimburse the school system for all of the children in the district, the Child Nutrition Department is reimbursed only for the number of students that are served on any given day when it comes to areas that have applied and been approved for Provisional Status from the USDA. You can’t make the children take a lunch, so the school district does not come out ahead, the school district does not even see that money, it gets reimbursed directly into a child nutrition program account.

Abby April 11, 2011 - 3:55 PM

I was just about to let you know about this news article, Erika! Always on top of things 🙂

Erica April 11, 2011 - 4:20 PM

I’m curious that the district didn’t specify religious as well as medical exceptions. There are a lot of reasons I pack my daughter’s lunch daily, primarily environmental and quality-food reasons — kosher food, while really low on the list, is still a factor for us. And I guarantee our school district doesn’t make even “casual” kosher available, unless the student only selects the salad option. (Ironically, lactose intolerant is also a reason for us, and so we’d still “qualify” to escape any ban on home lunch.)

There can be a pretty wide range in how healthy a school lunch is. I’d generally prefer a school lunch to, say, Lunchables (although not by much). In the districts around Columbia SC where we live, there’s a salad option in addition to whatever the hot food is. But even the best school lunch is doomed to be full of shortcuts, fillers, sodium, preservatives, and not-really-food additives. It might be better than Doritos and Coke, but it’s not better than what I can do.

I’ll never get over watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution when he took a whole chicken, took off the good cuts of meat, then pureed and strained the carcass [with bones!], added filler and flavoring, and made chicken nuggets… and all the kids watching him were still eager to eat it. American kids have some seriously weird ideas about what food is supposed to be 🙁

Heather E April 11, 2011 - 10:28 PM

I love Food Revolution! Unless Jamie Oliver has been to the school… I don’t want my kids eating their lunch! I live in the Chicago suburbs and if that crap policy comes out this way, I will personally bring a lunch to school everyday and sit with my kids while they eat it!

I support the idea of having a lunch room monitor with the authority to take away the sodas and edible non-foods, but no one will tell me I can’t pack a lunch. I am THIS close to homeschooling as it is… that policy would send me right over the edge

Malpha April 11, 2011 - 4:54 PM

“….adding that most parents expect that the school will look out for their children.”

This is the problem. It’s kind of funny to me how much schools feel they can take away the control you as a parent should rightfully have over what goes on with your child and half of it is because parents use schools as a substitute for learning what they need to do their own job.

I don’t agree with this plan at all. Personally, I could eat for longer on home food than what I could getting lunch from the cafeteria – especially if your lunch consisted of leftovers for last night’s dinner. I notice they say they make exceptions for allergies and medical conditions – what of religious exceptions or personal dietary exceptions? The solution is not to do parent’s jobs for them – it’s to educate parents on making healthier lunches.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 2:55 PM

I agree with you Malpha, but when do you think the parent education should take place? When there are open houses, there are the same concerned parents that come out, and quite honestly those parents are already involved and already abreast of what changes are taking place. The parents that feel that their child should learn everything from the public school are the parents that are usually not there, so we end up “preaching to the choir”?

Luxurylatte April 11, 2011 - 5:37 PM

Period point blank… If a parent makes a lunch for their child or prefers to do so, they should not have that right undermined by the school district. To this day, school lunches are some of the most disgusting food I have ever been subjected to. They claim it meets health standards, but but that’s THEIR standard, not necessarily healthy or meets the standard of the parents.

Also note that it does not have to be organic or limit processed meats or scientifically altered/engineered veggies.

Here in CA, we have some programs that have assisted schools in planting gardens on school grounds, and introduced healthier and delicious options offered for school lunches that the kids actually love to eat. They would service the children better by teaching them healthier eating habits, introducing nutritional classes and different exercise options. I think the children would be better served with the knowledge and awareness that would enable them to make better dietary choices in the future (can you imagine a child spending their allowance money on an apple instead of hot chips and a soda!) then a school policy that to me sounds suspect and lines the pockets of the food supplier.

curious April 11, 2011 - 5:54 PM

i say it’s not trustworthy. after having been in the public school system only three years ago, i find it hard to believe the quality of the lunch is that great. they use fake, processed food more often than not, and “fresh” vegetables have been known to be served covered in mold. but this is just bibb county in macon, ga. i wouldn’t be surprised if the standards were a bit higher in other places, but we also need to consider who is defining “healthy” and by what standards.

Linda April 11, 2011 - 10:02 PM

Ten years ago I worked with a first-grade literacy program in one of the poorer Midwest rural areas in the country, and the kids who brought home lunches had stuff like ketchup sandwiches (yup. Ketchup on Wonder Bread) and lard cookies (don’t even ask).

The nasty truth is that there’s a reeeeeeally good reason the feds stepped in to feed kids—because even the crappy job they’re doing is sometimes better than the crappy-squared job that comes out of a brown bag from home.

On the other hand, it’s easy-peasy to out-cook and out-nourish any school lunch program on the planet. So if my school system banned home lunches, I’d make sure my kids got a medical/religious/whatever exception and continue to send them to school with a good, nourishing lunch.

And then I hope I’d the fight for cleaner standards for school lunch programs.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 3:04 PM

Linda, I agree that the parents who understand what healthy meals are can provide better choices than cafeteria, and I don’t feel it’s right to tell a parent that they can’t send their own child a lunch from home, but as some have said, the lunchroom is usually more nutritious than some cheetos and a coke.

Phoenix April 12, 2011 - 1:32 AM

I actually think this is a wonderful idea. I taught for two years and currently work as a sub, and I am appalled by what children bring to school. Many of my students bring in full size bags of potato chips AS their lunch. I’ve also seen lunches that consist of kool-aid packets and fried pork chops. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a packed lunch that I would even consider semi-healthy, although this could be because I tend to work/sub in lower income schools.

Eva April 12, 2011 - 2:36 PM

I think the start of the article said it all. This was done because so many of the children were bringing in junk. I have seen children bring lunch from McDonald’s and Burger King for their lunch. Now I hated the school lunch when I was a kid, you know why? Because it DIDN’T have a lot of salt and sugar in it. We all thought it was bland.

Diva Dre April 12, 2011 - 4:28 PM

I think more effort should be put into educating the parents, maybe sending how a flier with 5 examples of healthy/ qualality/affordable lunches and a list of “banned” sugar fillled foods. Some parents may not know the harm they are doing..but to take the right away from everyone is ridiculous, I look foward to sending my baby to school with nutritous food from home.

ravi626 April 13, 2011 - 9:48 AM

The principal and several commenters have mentioned the problem of kids bringing junk food in their lunch. I would find a junk food ban much more reasonable than a blanket ban on food from home. I know it can be tough to regulate, but it would address the issue much more directly. Someone already mentioned a school having banned fruit snacks. Schools ban stuff all the time, why not junk food?

Oh yeah, many of them have vending machines that sell it and make a ton of money from it because the distributors sell it to em cheap. I would be a parent who sought a medical exception.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 3:07 PM

Most bans don’t work.. But if your school has a vending machine selling anything except water or gatorade during the school day, I’m sure they are not in compliance with the state regulations and they SHOULD be reported.

Serenity April 19, 2011 - 11:43 AM

When I was child, we had lunch ladies in schools who would lovingly (or so I perceived) prepare lunches for the children and staff. They were fresh and healthy. Now a days school lunches are pre-packaged, processed and microwaved. Corn nuggets, french fries, pizza, chicken tenders, sodas, chips…. etc. And this is supposed to be healthy? I worked in a middle school for 3 years (in GA!) and I got to the point where I brought my own lunch. There was nothing I wanted to eat. And teachers didn’t get different options from the children.

My children will eat the way I eat… clean, healthy, and vegetarian. So that means we will be packing lunches. And it’s not super expensive or time consuming to make a sandwich or pack left over dinner in Tupperware.

What’s next? The govt coming into our homes and forcing us to feed the children their foods?

Curlstar September 15, 2011 - 11:35 AM

I agree Erika, education on healthy food choices is necessary if the schools that use this caterer insist on the children eating this food.

If these schools want to lock parents down to a particular policy, I also have to ask about the parents that did not qualify for free/reduced lunch. These are the parents that have to pay full price, yet live paycheck to paycheck and not always able to afford to send the money to pay for these required lunches. Those parents are in a difficult situation. It may be more affordable for those parents to send a lunch to school with their child instead of paying for the lunch that is required by their policy. Does the school offer a payment program? Just something that I’m wondering about.

My boys’ school has a caterer that offers alternative food choices, including lactose free and vegetarian, and my oldest loves it. I have sampled their offerings at back to school night and their food was excellent. I like their menus because they use organic products and keep pork out of their menus for those that don’t eat it for religious purposes. (we don’t eat it by choice, but it doesn’t agree with me mostly) They also provide education to the kids on healthier food choices, and my oldest comes home and proudly says what a better choice would be to something that he wants to eat.

Nicole Williams September 23, 2011 - 1:58 PM

It’s not a perfect policy but I understand why the principal made that choice. I am a former Assistant School Principal and School Leader for PreK – 5 grade classes and during lunch time and 9/10 children would only bring junk food to school from home. I did not see sandwiches or salads in brown paper bags; I instead saw, on the whole, flaming hot cheetoes, honey buns, neon-colored fruit punches, now and laters, doritoes, and lunchables of all shapes and assortments. Rarely did I see home-cooked meals tucked neatly in containers for children to later warm; instead, we had frequent requests from parents to warm small containers of Chef BoyRDee products. One of our daily visuals was greeting students with orange-hued fingertips or electric blue lips because of their pre-school visits to the corner stores.

The caveat to that was the, in my opinion, the school lunch choices were not always better. I fought tooth and nail to block the serving of french toast sticks/pancakes with small cartons of HFCS syrup in the mornings because once, during breakfast, I happened upon a table of prekinders trying to drink the syrup while totally ignoring the hot grits and fruit on their plates. In my city, there has been a movement for school-based gardens and collaborations with local farmers to bring in fresh, local whole foods into the schools and provide students with consistent nutritionally-dense meals.

It’s not a problem with an easy solution but it is one that’s extremely important. I don’t think parents always knew how much junk food their children were taking in when not under their direct care (getting packaged food from friends or walking to corner stores before/after school) or how hard it is to change food policy in schools because of contracts (see Jamie Oliver Food Revolution – it took me six months to finally get the okay to ban syrup and that was with concessions :/) with food companies and how it’s tied to the school’s budget. I think if people were more aware of the politics of school lunches AND living in urban food deserts, we would be able to find a way to satisfy all parties and make sure students are getting the nutrition they need to perform well in school.

Just my two cents!


T.R. March 23, 2012 - 2:34 PM

Hi Erika,

I know you’ve printed this before, but this reprint is timely. I actually clicked on your link in 3.1 and looky looky what was on the site http://fedupwithlunch.com/2012/03/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-lunch-cps-nutrition-directors-ethics-under-investigation/

A recent article 3/12/12 in the Chicago Tribune about the investigation by CPS of improper “gifts” from Chicago’s Public Schools largest lunch provider …… drum roll please…. you guessed it Chartwells-Thompson.

Here’s the start of the article … “The inspector general for Chicago Public Schools is investigating allegations that the district’s largest food vendor gave thousands of dollars in gifts to a high-ranking CPS employee, a possible violation of the district’s ethics policy..”

Hope the article gives you some answers to some of your questions. So apparently despite what people were saying, it is about the money. The old adage that “numbers don’t lie” is a lie in and of itself. You have to always know what those numbers REALLY represent. SOMEONE is making money on school lunches, you don’t “bribe” people to break even.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 23, 2012 - 6:26 PM


DianaLyn March 23, 2012 - 2:52 PM

I would just question what was in the lunch. The kids in the story threw out an enchilada.I would question what is the enchilada probably processed cheese, sugary sauce… Unless you can tell me what exactly my child is eating ingredient wise I would be questioning the so called “health” claims of the program. And from the photo – i dont see any fruit or veggies just the enchilada and milk.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 3:31 PM

School Nutrition is something that is dear to my heart, and I left a great paying corporate career to go back and learn about nutrition so that I could make a difference in the nutrition of children. Like Nicole Williams stated, most people do not understand all of the politics that go into school lunches and its not as easy as just deciding to ban home lunches or certain foods.

First, most people don’t relate the changes in school nutrition to the First Lady’s push to end childhood obesity with the signing of the Healthy Hunger Free Kid Act of 2010. With that, there are some things that have to change and while many schools prepare and feed 200 – 1000 students within an hour, there are limits to what we can and can’t do and these changes take time to implement.

For those who said most school lunches are “a mess”, please look at DC city schools menu and reconsider http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/Beyond+the+Classroom/Food+Services/Menus+and+Nutritional+Information/Menus+and+Nutritional+Information+-+High+Schools

While b
most students and cafeteria workers will revolt if you take away their pizza.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 18, 2012 - 3:43 PM

“For those who said most school lunches are “a mess”, please look at DC city schools menu…”

…and reconsider WHAT? One school system (or even two overflowing handfulls worth of school systems) still doesn’t change the reality that most school lunches ARE, in fact, a MESS! Come ON, here!

Kim November 18, 2012 - 7:05 PM

Consider that many have changed and are trying to change. Consider that many have dietitian and chefs working to improve meals offer. Consider that this is a problem that will not be fixed over night. Consider giving most parents $1.00 and telling the parents to provide a suitable lunch. Consider actually volunteering to help instead of constantly complaining and if you have issues with the lunches that your school system is serving, talk to the school nutrition director.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 18, 2012 - 7:17 PM

You want me to consider all of that because, in the thousands of school districts in this country that compete with what I put in MY child’s lunch bag, a handful are getting it right? No. And it’s really annoying that you keep trolling my blog posts trying to tell parents that they shouldn’t be complaining. This is the second separate post where you’ve felt the need to tell people they should be “doing,” not “talking.” Stop. “Talking” and “complaining” is how people get educated about the problem. “Complaining,” and the conversations that come from such are how people learn what’s actually going on, and where they can get in and fit in to help. “Complaining,” and the bonding that comes from those discussions are how people realize the severity of these situations and are compelled to make changes in their OWN homes, because of the SLOW FOOTED CHANGE that YOU seem to think matters so much that we all should shut up. We shut up for DECADES, and now our children are developing type TWO diabetes.

If this is enough to shut YOU up, then by all means. Good luck with whatever you’re doing. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do ALL of the local advocacy I’ve BEEN doing, and I’ll continue to encourage people to complain to anyone and everyone who will listen. Hell, complaining to congresspersons is how actual local laws are made and policies are changed. “Stop complaining.” The nerve.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 10:21 PM

I agree with most of your response, because not talking is what has gotten our nation in the health crisis we are in today. I’ve never once said that I think parents should be banned from preparing and sending a lunch to school, because I don’t think that is right. I even pack my own child’s lunch because as a mom, I can do better than the school cafeteria can do. But what about parents who are not like you, me, or many of your other readers?

So many people complain without taking action, which doesn’t benefit the children. Complaining to each other does not do much, but actually talking and “complaining” to people who have the ability to make changes happen is required. I still think that we ALL need to WORK TOGETHER to turn things around within a few months.

We are all entitled to our opinions, but I agree with you because we HAVE to reverse the prevalence of obesity, T2DM, cardiac disease, and hypertension that plague our communities. In order to do this we need to be educated about proper diet and I commend you on doing that with your website.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 19, 2012 - 11:37 AM

“But what about parents who are not like you, me, or many of your other readers?”

I can speak from experience – people who listen in on these conversations may not even have a full understanding of the issue by the beginning of the read, but wind up fighting mad by the end of the post. So, please… stop assuming that there are so many people who just don’t care. Don’t confuse inactivity with apathy. It’s unfair.

All it takes is complaining to the right person with the right connections. All it takes is the right people, who have different pieces but together can complete half the puzzle. Instead of you coming in here telling people to “stop complaining,” you could’ve shared more about how the process works in your area and what barriers there are. You didn’t do that – you wanted to talk about what people SHOULD be doing – but what we ARE doing is talking. Why not contribute instead of passive aggressively defend the status quo and boss around?

Really, I’m done here. I’d rather hear from people who are relating to the topic in different ways than tell you, again, to stop telling people that “complaining” is such a problem.

Kim November 18, 2012 - 3:36 PM

(finishing my post). While banning a parents right to send in a lunch is going a bit far, it is so difficult to monitor what the kids are eating. We just all need to work together to make the school food environment a healthier place for our kids even if you send your kid with the healthiest options, think about the child who does not have a parent that advocates for his health and future.

AshBash November 18, 2012 - 9:59 PM

This is a sad but very common occurance. My friend lives in DC and her son attends public school. My girlfriend always cooks dinner and packs her son a healthy lunch and also he is a very picky eatter! But she was told that she could not bring her son lunch anymore. i thought that was the craziest thing i had ever heard! she fought the principal tooth and nail until she was allowed to bring her son his lunch.

Marrell November 19, 2012 - 6:45 AM

This just down right ticks me off! If I were a parent, I would seriously consider taking my child out of that school. How can you tell me that my child would not be allowed to bring in a lunch that I made for him/or her? Please. I loved bringing my lunch to school; Judy jetson lunch box and everything.
I have been a teacher’s aid many times before and it was funny to see that school lunches haven’t changed much, even from when I was a kid (over 20+ years ago) I loved the food then, but as an adult who is just now winning her battle on weight, I would not want my future children eating what is being served. A couple of lunch days come to mind: Taco tuesday (basically a shell with grease), Pizza fridays (pepperoni or sausage), Chalupa wednesdays (most kid’s favorite because of all the cheese) and choice of drink? Milk, chocolate milk, or grape juice o.O

Aspen's Whisper December 8, 2012 - 6:34 PM

I’m sick all the time, and neither myself, my parents, or my doctor know why. I’ve looked at a bunch of possible reasons why and am currently focused on diet. Last year I went off gluten for 6 weeks. I’ve been avoiding processed foods, ESPECIALLY anything with the possibility of MSG, and I’m still in school trying to avoid school lunches. Would the *possibility* of an allergy be enough to get me out of this? What about my vegetarian friend?

At my own school, taking one fruit or vegetable with each lunch has become mandatory, and while I applaud the spirit behind this, it’s resulted in so much waste! Everyday pounds of food are thrown away, and I can’t stand it. While healthy eating is a big concern, waste should be too.

Bridgette March 15, 2013 - 8:12 PM

Ever since we visited our oldest daughter for lunch in kindergarten seven years ago, she and our younger daughter have brought their lunch from home almost everyday. The meal that day was a selection of milk, packaged pizza, orange juice and a box of older looking apples that were being circulated and passed over. I can’t imagine these foods being forced on them daily without an alternative – other than not eating at all. The school system here must know how terrible the offerings are, as they allow lunches from home, but teachers often prohibit soda and junk food from lunches and snacks. My younger daughter is a type 1 diabetic, so I am more careful when packing her lunch to insure that her lunch will not cause an extreme blood sugar spike, plus I like to know how many carbs she will be consuming in advance so she knows what her dosage should be at meals. The lunched served in her school would have her levels all over the place! I wonder if this school system offers a reasonable accommodation for children with special diets needs.

Erel Blinn May 19, 2013 - 11:35 PM

This is crazy-As long as parents allow these things to go on without speaking up, they’ll continue.

We don’t have a healthcare crisis in this country, we have an illness prevention crisis. The healthcare crisis is “a manufactured crisis” to cover the real problem.

Preventing kids from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. Helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example.

And I would add that we need to take our schools back from the government, control them at the state level. And better yet, send your children to school with home prepared lunches and snacks.

While others would ask for more regulation, I consider the govt over reaching if they have my phone number.

And I certainly don’t want any of our elected officials telling me what I should and shouldn’t be eating. If you asked three politicians their opinion on a subject you would get twelve different answers.

All that aside, it’s none of their business what we eat. But it is our business what we eat, and we need to take our families health seriously.

The American Heart Association Just Endorsed Subway As “Heart Healthy Food”.
Really? If we use that model, then Mc Donalds, and the other fast fooder’s should be endorced by the American Cancer Society.

These are the foods your children are eating in school everyday. Go there and see for yourself, you have a right to visit your child’s school at any time unannounced. I suggest you have lunch with them one day.

And now that I have your attention–An even better choice would be to home school our children and tell uncle sam to take a hike.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 20, 2013 - 6:39 AM

An even better choice would be to home school our children and tell uncle sam to take a hike.


Carol August 7, 2013 - 10:35 AM


Carol August 7, 2013 - 10:32 AM

The first thing that jumped out at me at the beginning of this article was this: Who are they to tell parents what their kids can and can’t eat!? They have NO right stepping in and taking away this part of parental authority! Just the IDEA of a principal/school system/government having the audacity to put themselves in a position to determine what’s best for YOUR child is the number one issue/problem here. That’s why, normally, school lunches are optional for those who want or need it; but it should NOT be mandatory. I know very well how to feed my child and I don’t need someone forcing themselves in to take that responsibility for me. If I want to allow my child to eat anything that’s not considered healthy, that is MY choice. If I do not, that’s my choice as well. The main issue, to me, is respecting parental authority. More and more the world is not doing that; and more and more governing entities are slowly wanting to replace the parent completely. THAT’S WRONG. That’s why I’m very wary of things like this. Respect parents enough to give them the option to choose how they want to feed their child(ren). If they want them to buy school lunch fine, if not, leave them alone.

Pat August 8, 2013 - 12:09 AM

This makes no sense.

Yolanda August 9, 2013 - 7:38 PM

When my kids were 1st and 2nd grade, I placed them in a private school. It was small and international. Their lunch was cooked fresh everyday and served with salad and warm vegetables. The kids ate on real plates (not trays) and had real flatware. And lunch time was treated as important as the lessons. Parents were always invited to come and have lunch with the kids. And it was good, nutritious, and the parents who came also ate it. Would the parents of that Chicago school eat the lunch is my question. I ate the lunches and shared the meals, so I knew it was good and healthy. I didn’t have to worry.

Nurseybee September 26, 2013 - 1:30 PM

First, I know there are some really great parents who really actually do care that their kids are eating healthy and who try to send them to school with a nice, well-balanced meal, who make sure their homework is completed and correct, and who are sure to put their children to bed at a reasonable time so that they get the proper number of hours’ sleep.

However, I would like to reject the statement that schools should “educate parents” about healthy eating. The reason I say this is because I work in a physician’s office in Upstate New York, and people know what is healthy/unhealthy. They simply ignore the facts, and they tend to hide behind excuses like, “I eat fast food because I don’t have time to cook” or “I know I’m gaining weight, but I am so busy I can’t exercise.” When it comes to our children, some parents are no different. They smoke around their kids, they buy soda and junk food, and they allow their children to browse through the refrigerator at odd hours of the day, not really questioning why these kids are gaining weight and doing poorly in school.

I do not agree with requiring school lunches to be purchased, because I do not agree with requiring people to spend money on anything more than they already spend money on. I also do not think any school has any business overriding parents in any way. I also have a problem with people of certain cultures maybe wanting to make sure their children follow their culture throughout school, and because of the possibility of this becoming a new fad in the school systems, they may not be able to do so. Just my opinion.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 27, 2013 - 10:38 AM

“However, I would like to reject the statement that schools should “educate parents” about healthy eating. The reason I say this is because I work in a physician’s office in Upstate New York, and people know what is healthy/unhealthy.”

I’m actually going to push back on this a little bit.

1) I think we need to employ liberal use of the word “some,” here. “Some people may know what is healthy and what is not.” “Some” people might be lying about that, or “some” people might have an understanding of ‘what is healthy/unhealthy.’ Lots of different kinds of pepople from different walks of life and differing levels of experience with healthy eating make up the spectrum that presents with this issue. It’s unfair to say “Nah, they know!”

2) Some people’s ideas of ‘healthy eating’ are severely compromised. What happens if the person who is admitting to knowing “what is healthy/unhealthy” thinks that Oreos with DHA count as “healthy?” What if they think that “Made with Whole Grain!” means ‘healthy?’ Their idea of “healthy” really… isn’t.

3) I could make a pretty strong argument that a person who says “I eat fast food b/c I don’t have time to cook” doesn’t, in fact, know what is healthy or unhealthy, especially if you think it takes longer than 15 minutes. It seriously doesn’t have to.

4) I could also make an argument that if people are saying things like “I don’t have time to exercise,” they, too, have a compromised idea of what it means to be “healthy” or to “get fit.”

5) Smoking is an addiction. We can acknowledge and support alcoholics? Smokers need the same support and understanding, even if smoking isn’t as immediately debilitating as alcohol.

6) This: “I also have a problem with people of certain cultures maybe wanting to make sure their children follow their culture throughout school” needs clarification. Are you saying that the school is interfering with a family’s ability to feed their children cultural dishes, or that certain cultures shouldn’t really be allowed to bring their food to school anyway?

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