The Wall Street Journal has a story on how making school lunch has gotten too complicated:
Why does packing a kid’s school meal often leave parents feeling frazzled?
With food allergies on the rise, many schools have barred all nut products, not just peanut butter, and sometimes other foods like soy and dairy. More schools also have candy and soda bans. A growing awareness of childhood obesity and nutrition means more parental anxiety around choosing the “right” foods—and making sure it’s stuff the kids will actually eat…..
“I pack [my son] a lunch every day and I hate it,” says Amy Hood, a stay-at-home mother of three from Charlestown, R.I. “It is like laundry. You’re never done.” In January, she tweeted that she had slipped a Kit Kat into her 11-year-old’s lunch: “This is (voice of doom) AGAINST THE RULES. Told him to eat the evidence if confronted.” Her son’s school has a no-candy policy. And while Ms. Hood says she generally packs a healthy lunch, she says she doesn’t “see the problem in a little fun stuff.” (The Kit Kat wasn’t confiscated; her son ate it.)
A Kit Kat is a crime?
We read so often about how badly most Americans eat. We go out too often, or bring in take-out, and we never make our own food. This is supposedly why we are all so fat and will die early of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We are supposedly killing our kids with the junk food we buy them or the fast food they buy with the money we give them because we are too busy working to make dinner.
Now we learn that instead of trying to encourage parents to make healthier, homemade lunch for their kids, schools are bearing down on parents with all sorts of rules for what they can and can’t send. Schools will now monitor what the kids are bringing from home and confiscate the lunch if it doesn’t comply with government-set standards.
Worse yet, some schools are banning homemade lunch altogether because the school can’t control what the kids are getting.
“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” said Chicago’s Little Village Academy Principal Elsa Carmona. “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.”
But the food in school is terrible. First Lady Michelle Obama came up with new school lunch menus that are forced on public schools and students. The lunch program is so heavily subsidized that schools can hardly resist. Only it turns out that the kids hate the food (and use, ahem, colorful language to express themselves), they throw a ton of it out and are costing schools hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. Several hundred schools, in fact, have opted out of the national school lunch program because the students hated it so much and it was costing districts thousands.
“Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,” said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year. “So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.”
Instead of fighting parents and punishing kids, educators and administrators should be grateful when kids bring their own food and encourage more parents to do the same. So what if there’s a bag of chips with the bologna sandwich. At least the school didn’t have to pay for it and the kid is getting fed. Besides, aren’t schools meant to focus more on what’s going into the kids’ brains rather than their stomachs?