Monday, April 11, 2011

Today's Outrageous News story comes to you compliments of my friend, Jenn, who shared with me a report of a grade school in Chicago that has banned homemade lunches.  According to the story, the principal of the Little Village Academy has determined that the school lunches are more healthy than the food parents have been sending from home, so parents are now no longer allowed to pack a lunch for their children and must pay the $2.25 per meal for the food offered by the school.

My knee jerk reaction upon hearing this was one of rage. How dare they, right?  How can they force parents to pay $2.25 per day, per child for what is probably processed crap mixed with fat, too much salt, and way too much sugar.  I mean, did you see the Jamie Oliver show?

The problem with this thinking is that I don't know that this school is offering food like the school above.  It may very well be that the Chicago school is feeding kids the same healthy options my own kids are fed.  I happen to live in a school district that is ahead of the game when it comes to healthier school lunch choices.  My kid eat school lunch every day, not because I don't have the time/energy/wherewithal to pack them lunches, but because I know they're being fed food I would choose myself.

This is where the argument gets tricky for me.  If we have a principal whose school is providing genuinely healthy lunches for kids, and we have some parents sending kids to school with soda and chips and calling it a lunch, it's hard for me not to side with the principal.  I know I would pack a nutritious lunch for my kids.  That is not true of every parent.

At the same time, the rugged American individualist in me believes those parents have the right to feed their kids crap, however much I might disagree with that choice, and the principal does not have the right to force parents to buy the food at the school, however healthy it may be.  I believe in education over legislation, so the thought of the government stepping in and saying a parent must feed their child X, Y, or Z is not okay with me.  The school is operated by the government, so I see it as an extension of such.

At this point, I think the individualist is winning the fight, aided in no small part by the budget conscious mom in me.  Whether or not the lunch is mandated, $2.25 per child per lunch is out of the range of the possible for my family.  Feeding all of my kids school lunch every day at that price would cost me $11.25 a day, $225 a month.  I could send my kids to school with equally nutritious meals every day for half that or less.  Knowing my own school district is able to feed kids healthy food for $1.20 a meal makes the price of this school's lunches a little hard to accept.

While I think the choice of lunch should be left to the parents, I do think this debate highlights how important a parents' role is in teaching kids to eat healthy foods.  Reports say that kids at this school are complaining that the food doesn't taste good.  Is that because the food isn't cooked well, or is it because these kids have never been given the opportunity to eat good food before?  A lifetime of pizza, chicken nuggets, and nachos will not endear a child to whole grain pasta and a fresh salad.  Supporting those choices at home will.

I applaud the principal's intentions even if I don't agree with her tactics. If nothing else, this story will get parents thinking and looking more closely at what their kids are being fed on a daily basis.  If it causes a few parents to become rugged American individualists, well, that's pretty cool too.

(Thanks to Jennifer C. of Las Vegas, NV, for the heads up on today's Outrageous News story.)


Tami said...

Here's an article with a picture of an actual lunch from that particular school:

Looks overprocessed and disgusting to me. I don't care if it falls within some established guideline for calories, fat grams, and sodium--I still don't want my kids eating it.

Julia said...

This brings to mind a Dr Who episode several years ago, where all the kids had to eat the school lunch. Of course, there, it was part of the evil scheme to use the kids to take over the world .... mwahaha (episode is called High School Reunion, it's season 2, if anyone cares).

But I agree ... Requiring every student to eat a school lunch, rather that home-packed, just borders way to closely on infringements of parents rights to be parents and make the decisions.

Tami said...

I will say though, that one of my friends made a good point, which is that when you choose to let the government educate your child, you're already giving up lots of rights. We tend to assume that parents have the right to make all these decisions for their children, and they do, except at school. In loco parentis allows institutions such as schools to act in the best interests of the students as they see fit and the courts are increasingly finding in favor of the schools in lawsuits across the country, basically saying that the parents gave up their right to have a say in their child's education when they sent their child through the doors of the school. And THAT is my number one reason for homeschooling. All other reasons are secondary to my concerns about the government taking my parental rights while my kids are in school. I teach my kids because I am responsible to God for their education, and I don't want to have to say "well, at school they taught..." when I'm answering to God for how I raised my children. (Disclaimer: not all schools or teachers are bad, this is my choice for my kids only and I do not judge others, this was just what I felt very strongly I needed to do for my kids.)

Sarah Clark said...

Lol, Tami. In my mind, your disclaimer was read by one of those super fast talking radio voices.