Banning home lunches (take two)

When I blogged about the banning of home lunches on Monday, it was in an attempt to understand what would cause a principal to do that. At face value it seems screwy — what was their logic?

To ban lunches from home they must have been truly horrific. No principal would go to that extreme if they hadn’t seen lunches consisting of flavored water and a banana (a packed lunch I have seen). Or alternately the school lunches offered must be out of sight. Using that line of reasoning, I gave some examples of bad lunches from home as well as some good school lunches.

What bothered you the most (and my husband) was the disregard of a parent’s basic right to pack a lunch for their child, even if it is unhealthy. My husband says that a parent has the right to pack whatever they want for their child every single day. Two donuts? Ok. Gourmet chicken salad? Ok. Whatever the parent wants to do, the parent can do — according to my husband. What do you think about that? Is this purely a rights issue? When should school districts step in (if at all)?

I have to say that when I read the article, I didn’t get mad about banning home lunches. I like it when lunch makes the news. The good, the bad, and the ugly — it needs to be out there so we can discuss theses issues, think about them critically, and take action.

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49 Responses to Banning home lunches (take two)

  1. gail April 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    I see your point. I take issue with lunches and snacks as well but it is the parent's perogative to send what they want. How about the lunches that start healthy and end with junk for dessert? Are the parents aware that their child will eat all of the junk, throw away the fruit and most of the sandwich as well. It's a dream state lived in by caring adults. They think that because they pack it, the child will eat it. Some kids throw most of it away because they are chatting and never get the time they need. I'd like to see an end to junk sweets and colored sugar water but there's no muscle behind that. The parents would be wise to save all the treats for home. I'm not impressed with ring dings and oreos as snack – pure junk for an already obese population of children.

  2. Kristen April 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Mrs. Q, I always admire your focus on nutrition and doing what is best for children, but I have a feeling that in cases where home lunches are banned, it has more to do with logistics and school bureaucracy than anything else. I imagine that schools are faced with the difficulty of having to manage trash, inequality, and possibly added disorder from having one group of students do one thing (school lunch), and another group of students doing something else (home lunches). Teachers have to manage having their classes headed in two different directions, unexpected questions “Can I use the microwave?” and the easy solution is just to say “no home lunches.” They may also be facing issues of inequality – some kids from home have really good, envious treats, and they can’t share with everyone. Bullying might be a factor, or cliques. There is probably a lot more going on here than just making a decision about nutrition.

  3. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Yes. This is a rights issue. Food is so basic, so fundamental. For the government to step in and get involved is obviously both offensive and frightening. It scares me to no end to think of what will be regulated next. Even just in terms of child-care, will the government start telling parents what they can feed their children at home? What ideologies they can teach?
    I get that certain politicians think they know best, but it really isn't their job to enforce these types of opinions on others. This type of intrusive policy-making would shock our forefathers.

  4. Central Restaurant Products April 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    After reading this post, it got me thinking that maybe their decision could have been made differently. What if they gave guidelines for what could be sent from home? Not exactly the ideal "parents can send what they like" solution, but would still allow home lunches to be sent. Your lunches for your son are a great example. You try to make them similar to the school lunch, but a healthy version. What's so wrong with doing something similar? In this scenario, if something bad is sent, a letter is sent home asking not to send the food again and encouraging better choices with reasoning behind them. This could educate parents who may not know any better.

  5. TJ April 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    As a disclosure… I'm not a parent. But during that previous discussion, that whole thing of "my child, my ways" part bothered me. I believe (as an outsider) that the issue is being looked at from an overly protective side. Right, they are your children. But hopefully, you don’t get to feed them JUST because they belong to you. You should be feeding them because you care for them and you love them, or at least you want to help them AND you are in a position to help. Don’t stab me for this, but I think that the “my child, my ways” argument can be stretched to things that can harm the child (think smoking, drugs, crimes). After all, child obesity, vitamin deficiency and poor nutrition are things that can harm them in the long term.

    Back to the school policy, I don’t agree that they should ban homemade lunches. These are children, not inmates. Some kids are not used to certain foods being prepared certain ways, and we can’t force them to like them or go hungry. You’re also removing all parental control/involvement from this aspect of the kids (I am not contradicting myself; parents should have a very loud/strong say, even if it’s neutral, about any choices concerning the wellbeing of the child). I think the real argument here is quite a push-and-pull between molding the children and molding the parents, in my opinion.

    Like Anonymous said, banning such extent of control from a parent would be intrusive at best, offensive and frightening at worse.

  6. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Not all children these days are obese. I was extremely skinny growing up and played a lot of sports. While my lunches had some healthy elements there were also some junk calories – bc I literally needed hundreds of calories to make it through the day and not lose more weight. There is no way a normal school lunch would have been sufficient. School lunch is a one size fits all solution – and not all children have unitary diet needs. They are normal, obese and skinny.

  7. Philippa April 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Another approach is to invite parents to workshops to discuss interesting ways of putting together healthy lunches. In addition to the obvious direct benefit of doing this, it's also a good strategy for bringing educators and parents together.

    In our province of Ontario, there are grants for projects that encourage parent involvement, and this is one workable idea that will benefit the students. When we talk about food, everybody is a winner.

  8. Kathy April 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    I do think it's a parent's right to feed their child however they see fit. That being said, while having lunch with my daughter at her elementary school several years ago, I saw another child open his lunch sack from home to reveal nothing more than a can of Dr Pepper and a small bag of Fritos. I was completely taken aback by it and couldn't help wondering what went on there … was this a case of the parents being super busy in the morning (I can definitely sympathize) and asking the child to pack his own lunch, then not checking the contents before they walked out the door? Did the parent get exasperated and say, "Fine, bring a soda and chips if that's all you're going to eat!"? Or was something a lot sadder going on? No way to tell.

    My main concern as a parent with home lunches being banned would be whether the school lunches were actually nutritious and whether allergy-free options were available to the kids. My daughter is allergic to tree nuts and legumes, including soy (and all soy derivatives, like tofu). Soy is used as a cheap filler and protein component in a lot of prepared foods, and soy and other legumes/beans are seen as healthy meatless options in schools that are trying to be more progressive with their nutrition, but regardless of the motivation behind it, my daughter can't eat it.

    When I read about the lunch you ate at the Academy for Global Citizenship, Mrs. Q, it made me sad to think that my daughter wouldn't have been able to eat the bean burritos and barbecued tofu, the two main protein components of the meal. It made me wonder what the options are there for children with food allergies.

  9. sara April 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    my oldest will be eating lunches at school this fall for the first time, and I'm already planning on packing all of them. Her school charges almost $3 per lunch, and it includes foods I do not allow my kids/me to eat. I can make an organic, whole food lunch for around $1-$1.50, that my daughter actually likes and will eat. Not only is it a food issue, but it's a money issue for me.

    I'm really curious to know what this school's menu/ingredient list looks like-do we know? For my family we only eat organic, whole foods that are minimally processed, with no additives like hfcs. We don't even drink cow's milk anymore. What my kids eat is a VERY important issue to me, and for a public school district to step in and tell me that they're taking away the right for me to feed my children how I see fit-well it would cause us to find a new school.

  10. Amber April 14, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I wrote a pretty extensive blog entry on my very non political blog about this whole thing and I'm going to kind of repeat some of it.

    This very much is a rights issue, and my concern is that it's just another right (the right to choice) that Americans are willing to give up to be promised health, happiness and safety.

    Why would you give up such a basic right for a government that really hasn't shown you any reason to believe that they have YOUR best interest at heart? And before someone debunks this as a school thing and not a government thing, ask yourselves where schools get thier money from.

    I agree that children have a right to good nutrition and that sending a child to school with two donuts for lunch isn't meeting that right, but who's to say that this school doesn't allow their students to choose the options of nachos and cheese each day? Or allows student to bring in money to BUY their two donuts? Who's to say the school, prinicpal, district or state knows anything about what good nutrition is?

    There are plenty of other ways to help this situation without banning students from bringing lunches to school. Without stripping away more basic human rights.

  11. Heather April 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I told my kids about this article….they were mortified. They said it would push them into homeschooling. 🙂 ( i have my moments of thinking I'd like to hs, but they love their school) they said "but a lot of those lunches are so GROSS!". We're raising our kids to make good, healthy choices and to eat those "bad calories" in moderation.

    My biggest issue is that this school has decided it can make better choices for the kids than the parents themselves. I am hoping they did a whole lot of others things (approved food lists, nutritional training, etc) before resorting to this mandate. As a sub in our district, I have seen all sorts of meals (or lack thereof)….but not so pervasive that I can even imagine such a rule.

  12. Tabatha April 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    If that school really cared about health, they wouldn't serve half of whats on their lunch menu. I would tend to believe this is about money. Food that isn't processed government junk is most likely more expensive, and some of it may actually spoil! so if every child is guaranteed to buy it, it's much more cost effective.

  13. Gina April 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    I have been reading this with a lot of interest. I was the director of a large private preschool program for many years and we finally ended up posting the meal requirements that we had to meet. All lunches that did not meet the basic requirements set forth by DHS would be held until the end of the day. We had many parents that would stop at the convenience store down the street and breakfast would be something like powdered doughnuts and Yoo-Hoo, lunch would be a bag of chips, a candy bar and possibly a lunchable and soda. Dinner would be a kids meal from a drive through and they would be eating it on the way out the door on the way to whatever activity they had planned that night. This wasn't a rare occurrence and not just a few parents here and there. I will mention too that this was in an affluent area with multiple grocery stores and a Farmer's Market, so getting fruits and vegetables wasn't an issue. I just wonder where the rights of a parent ends because the child's rights need to be taken into consideration.

  14. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I think the first thing I thought of was, what a BOON for the food suppliers! It's just like the healthcare law, which basically is a bonus to insurance companies. I find it ironic that the ones against it are conservatives, since it so clearly is a nudge in support of big corporations…

    Democrat or Republican, the absence of choice should upset everyone.

  15. Another Josh April 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Those that are complaining about the "government" doing this are blowing things way out of proportion. This is the decision in one school, by one school administration. It's not an elected official doing this, and not even a school district as a whole.

    That said, as I said in the comments of the previous post, the school should be working with the parents in general regarding their childrens' education. This isn't doing that, a ban throws up a wall between parents and educators. The articles I've seen regarding this do not go into details about how much of a problem unhealthy lunches are in the school or if any previous steps were taken to address this problem, so we're going on limited information.

    I do agree that a parent should have a say in what the child eats, and the school is out of line in completely banning the food. If history has taught us anything (hopefully the education system got something to sink in) is that bans just cause people to look for ways to get around the ban, be it sneaking food in or getting a sympathetic doctor to write a note. Maybe the school is just doing a large lesson on Prohibition, and not telling anyone about it. That's unlikely though, and a ban is the easy and likely doomed to failure way out for the school administration.

    These people are educators. They should be helping the students and their parents know what healthy eating is, not excluding them from the process.

  16. Fab Kate April 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Several things don't seem to be taken into consideration here. First off: What about kids with food allergies and special dietary needs? Is the school willing to assume liability? Is it right for parents to take those risks?

    Who benefits from this? The school? The kids? What good does it do to take away a parent's lousy lunch to feed the kids french fries and pizza? Parents have to pay for student lunches, or the state does. Either way, it's money coming into the school.

    I have to wonder what the school's motivation is in all this. I have to agree that it's not likely to be the kids' best interest.

  17. Tina April 14, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    My understanding is that this is a policy that has existed within the school for the past SIX years. I'm really wondering why it's only now such a big deal. Slow news day? I doubt that, but I do wonder what happened to bring it to the attention of national media.

  18. Hannah April 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    Just because you have a child doesn't mean you can abuse the child either–and perhaps teaching them NO nutritional facts is a form of abuse. The child could grow up to be ostracized for obesity, or have severe health problems, etc, etc. Besides, it's not like the government doesn't intrude in numerous other aspects of our personal lives…

  19. Aimee April 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    The only logical reason I can think of for banning school lunches is if they were starting to have behaviour problems with children trading/selling snack items and food. Or if children were bringing items that were inappropriate. An extreme example, but a high school student sneaking alcohol in his thermos and sharing it with his mates. And in the above examples schools went with an outright ban rather than handling each situation individually, or working to fix the problem behaviours. However, a ban of lunches strikes me as an extreme and senseless knee-jerk reaction.

    I believe a parent has a right and responsibility to feed his child as he chooses. And although it may not be what I would choose, it's none of my business unless the child is being truly neglected or abused. And in those cases, it should be handled on a case-by-case basis rather than a global ban which resolves none of the underlying issues in the long run.

  20. Jen April 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Our family eats a REAL, whole foods, organic, mostly from scratch diet (Nourishing Traditions style). There is no way I would allow my children to eat the FAKE, processed industrial waste that some districts try to pass off as "food" in school lunches! Let me repeat… NO WAY.

    My children would never attend this school. This issue is that important to me, and yes, it IS my basic right as a parent to make this decision for my children! I would homeschool or send them to a private school. I may end up doing that even if there is no home lunch ban, because there are just so many things wrong with the state of our educational system today. By the way, those "many things wrong" do not include teachers… I think most are awesome.

  21. Amber April 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Another Josh said: "Those that are complaining about the "government" doing this are blowing things way out of proportion. This is the decision in one school, by one school administration. It's not an elected official doing this, and not even a school district as a whole."

    You're missing the point, it only takes one school to pratice a theory for a few years to then say, "hey this works!" before other schools start adopting it. It's a snowball effect. Why is this an issue now? Because they can back it up by saying, "Hey we've done it for 6 years and guess what? IT WORKS!" and other schools and parents are going to be more apt to jump on than say no thanks. If you're agreeing to let one school get away with it, you're agreeing to let any other school, district, state or country to get away with it.

    And Hannah said: "Besides, it's not like the government doesn't intrude in numerous other aspects of our personal lives…"

    This is a really, really scary thing for me to read. That "I don't care" attitude is going to allow even more of your rights to be stripped away faster than you probably expect. Just because the government is intruding in your life DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT. Christ, stand up for and protect what hundreds of men and woman faught so hard for.

  22. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    I agree with Hannah. Severe examples of this are child abuse – or perhaps child neglect, in my opinion.

    Part of being a parent is providing for their basic needs: clothing, shelter, and food. DCFS is called when kids regularly show up in the winter without appropriate clothing, we help those we suspect are homeless. I think the same should be done if a kid is not getting their basic needs met in the food department as well. If cost is a problem, there is government assistance for that. You aren't allowed to starve your kid, just providing empty calories is starving them of nutrition in my opinion.

    I know there is a difference between bad parenting and outright neglect or abuse. I also know that educating the parents and kids about healthy eating would be much better than calling DCFS.

    I know I'm being controversial here, but the research is clear that unhealthy diets lead to all sorts of health problems. Is it really a parent's right to essentially give their kid diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease…?

  23. ChristinaB April 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I believe this is all about a parents right. I agree with your husband Mrs.Q . A parent has the right to feed their child whatever they want and I don't believe the government has any right to step in unless the child isnt being fed at all.I also feel that comparing unhealthy lunches to child abuse is absolutely rediculous. There is a HUGE difference between giving a child a few cookies with every lunch and punching him in the face.Sorry but it just doesnt compare!

  24. sara April 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    Anon-do we know what this school is serving, that is more nutritious than what's coming from homes? I'd love to see their menu plan/ingredient list since they obviously think it's so much better than what parents are packing? I'd also love to know if they have any vending machines on campus that sell snacks and soda. If they truly cared about kids health than these would be gone (and no replacing regular soda with diet doesn't count as healthy!)

  25. The Table of Promise April 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    I agree. It is about choice. Parents should have the right to pack whatever they like. But I like the idea that schools could have conversations with parents about the lunches that are being sent. No soda rules, or no peant rules are accepted. Why not other common sense rules? Or how about talking to parents in a lunch 'presentation' at PTA meetings or parent teacher conference. Maybe instead of taking away choice the discussion could call parents to action to encourage things like yogurt and veggie sticks and basic sandwiches rather than donuts and YooHoo.

    Parents that do not feed their children are charged with neglect. But feeding your kid nothing but potato chips isn't really taking good care of your kid either. It might be grey, but it still isn't good parenting. Maybe by talking to parents about what to send (rather than what not to send) parents might learn a thing or two about nutrition as well as the kids…

  26. mhaithaca April 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    We really seem to be getting just a part of the story here. I'd love to hear some of the justification from the school.

    What are some POSSIBLE reasons that come to mind why the school might do this?

    * Concern about allergens coming with food from home.
    * Concern about inadequate nutrition in food from home.
    * Desire to maximize school's share of federal school lunch funds.
    * Desire to maximize economies of scale for food service operation.

    One thing I'm curious about is the suggestion from your husband and others that there's a "basic right" to send your kids to school with lunch. Don't get me wrong, I don't think you shouldn't be allowed to, especially in cases like your son's — but I'm having trouble finding this "basic right" anywhere.

  27. Elizabeth April 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Hey there, I'm fairly new to your blog. I love looking at your lunch ideas, they give me inspiration for my own menus! I like to brown bag it because I can have delicious food for a bargain, and because I use less to no trash.

    Regarding this issue, in my own cynicism I really think this is a ploy on behalf of the school district to bring in more money: if kids have to buy their lunches from the school, then the district can depend upon that incoming source of revenue. This can be done in a far more appealing manner.

    First off, I believe that students should most definitely have the right to bring their own lunches to school. Trying to force children to eat school lunch every day is ridiculous and, frankly, anti-American.

    Secondly, a district could easily encourage students to buy more lunches with good options. What student isn't happy with a yummy soup and sandwich lunch? How about baked potatoes and salad? And, for crying out loud, have protein-rich vegetarian options. Have a gluten free meal. And will a day ever come when school lunches are longer than 20 minutes? No wonder parents pack a doughnut and a banana, that's all you can scarf down in such a small amount of time.

    When I went to private school, you could only bring your own lunch if you had dietary or spiritual restrictions. Our lunch menu was diverse and really good. Every day there was a sandwich option, and a salad and baked potato bar. Nothing came wrapped in plastic or paper: everything was served up on real dishes with silverware. Granted, private school tuition affords a much higher quality lunch than most public school districts, but it could be a step in the right direction. We also had 45 minutes to eat lunch.

    The takeaway? Fine, ban brown bag lunch, but make it worth it.

  28. Renee April 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    This is a little off topic, (and, Mrs. Q, if you find it offensive or too far off, feel free to delete it), but I find all the yelling about "don't take away my choices" to be kind of ironic. I'm pro-choice, but I would bet these same people are the ones who would LIKE the government to take away my choice to control what happens to my body. If the government can force me to have a baby, why shouldn't it be allowed to force you to feed your child correctly? Both issues are about the health of a child, right?

  29. Jennie Andrus April 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    I'm sort of torn on this issue. On one hand, I can see why it would be necessary. Kids on a sugar high are going to disrupt classes, and kids who don't have much to eat would at least get a filling meal. My aunt was a teacher and she spent a lot of her own money every month buying healthy snacks for kids who didn't have much in their lunches.

    My biggest issue with it is that no matter how healthy the food is, you are going to get kids who won't eat it. How is it better to have a kid go hungry because her only option was something she hates? Not to mention the cost to those who don't qualify for free meals, but are are on a tight budget.

    I think its basically a cop out, and a money grab by the school. Educating kids on what is healthy, getting them interested in what kinds of things they could bring from home, would be so much better. After all, aren't schools there to educate kids? As for trying to force high school students to eat school lunches…yeah, good luck with that. You tell 90% of high school students they HAVE to give up junk food, they'll be all the more determined to eat it, even if it means sneaking it in or simply leaving school grounds.

  30. Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    "hi, I am a parent and I totally support killing my kid early by giving him doughnuts and double downs and yoo-hoos and whatever processed food is out there. my kid's choice comes first to me and i don't want him to hate me. i don't see a need to tell him what to do because everyone should have their choice right? too much of a chore to cook at home, i'm tired everyday after work and it's just so much easier to pop a hot pocket in the oven. if he wants to eat doughnuts everyday, that's what i'll give him. he loves me for it and i don't want to destroy that beautiful relationship we have."

    that's what they implicitly say, even though they don't admit it.

  31. Kristen April 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    I have an issue with the school deciding that the parents can't parent. That bothers me. Also, if the family is on the lower economic scale, now they have to pay for lunch, too?

  32. Meg April 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    I think my initial outrage was that the school would not allow anything from home without a doctor's note. What line do we draw with schools acting in loco parentis? It's not just about "saving" a kid with a parent who doesn't want to make an effort to send their kid with more than a bag of chips and a soda for lunch. It also punishes the parent who wants to provide nutritious food that their kid will eat while they're apart.

    I understand that it may not be such a stretch for some families to obtain a doctor's note to circumvent the rule. But there are a number of financial factors and logistics involved in trying to get, say, a doctor's note for each of your three kids for the year. The cost of the doctor's visits, the convincing of the pediatrician to "diagnose" the kids with special restrictions, and what happens if the kid is "busted" in the lunchroom, bringing in something they're supposed to be allergic to.

    I can't help but see this as the school's cash cow. And as to basic rights? Your child, you're the legal guardian, meaning you are responsible for that child in every way, including what he or she eats. It's not as easy as "If you don't like what the school's doing, move to another district". I can't even wrap my head around some of the "good for the school" attitudes in the comments. Think for yourselves–would YOU want to go into work every day and be fed whatever is being served that day or go hungry? What if you have a total aversion to pizza? Guess what, kiddo, you're going hungry once a week until you're old enough to change schools.

  33. Anonymous April 15, 2011 at 12:46 am #

    My big problem with this is mostly that my child is picky in a way that doesn't work well with school lunch. He hates cheese. He hates yogurt. He's not a real chicken fan. And he doesn't much care for lettuce (though he'll eat spinach and arugula quite happily). This means that roughly 80% of what's on my district's lunch menu (main dishes anyway) are things my child won't eat. Salad bar is iffy. No pizza, no mac & cheese, no cheeseburgers, no lasagne, no enchiladas or burritos, no chicken nuggets. Often, there's even cheese on the pasta dishes. And since these come like your school lunches, Mrs. Q, one can't ask them to please leave the cheese off.
    It's not a medical problem, so I can't really ask my doctor to write a note. And if my district did this, my child's lunches would usually consist of fruit and a cookie, or something similar. He's a 9 year old active boy, who would be so cranky when I picked him up everyday that I would go nuts.

  34. Scattered Mom April 15, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    I wrote a post on it too, over here. 🙂

    http://www.notesfromthecookiejar.com/2011/04/lunch-bans.html

    I believe that the right to choose is what makes us free, and to ban lunches is a cop out.

  35. Stef April 15, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    I commented on the previous post about this topic. I was very much against the idea that a school would take away the parent's natural right to feed their child according to their will. But now I'm starting to think about it in a different way. I still don't like it, but it seems that if your child attends a school, you are inevitably handing them off to other adults to be raised (by people who don't necessarily share your values) for the hours they are there.

    Schools all have various policies in place that tend to be one-size fits all in nature. Purportedly, these policies are to promote the best interests of your child. But we all know that there are many additional motivations for the collection of assorted policies schools may have in place: schools' money interests, protecting the school from litigation, streamlining operating logistics, complying with federal mandates, etc.

    Unless you homeschool, your child will almost certainly at some point encounter a policy that isn't a good fit for their situation or your family's values. They may not get to have daily recess, may only be allotted 20 minutes to scarf down lunch, may not get to eat peanut butter sandwiches, may have to move at a slower academic pace than they'd prefer in order to not advance beyong the rest of the class, may have to learn about drugs or sex before they are ready, may not get to wear certain types of clothing, etc.

    Maybe they can't pack their lunch anymore, because some other students bring what someone somewhere deems to be unhealthy lunches. Instead of addressing individual concerns, schools often find it better to enact blanket policies targeting "the lowest common denominator" of behaviors, which takes away choices for everyone and lowers the standards expected of all students and parents.

    The more I think about it, to send your child to school is to cede your values and intentions to a bureaucracy. If you care passionately about what your child encounters during a typical day, your best bet would probably be to just homeschool. It's the only way you can tailor your child's educational experience to fit his or her needs. If you don't or can't do that, be prepared to encounter lots of policies you may not like. I know which option I'd prefer.

  36. Hannah April 15, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    I want to clarify–I have issues with government interfering with our personal lives, but there are so many aspects of our lives that are interfered in–from marriage, to getting tax breaks for having children/buying houses…many who are against some of these things are for others.

    Children need food to live, and many do not get it. Nutritious food is even better, and many do not get it. Who is to say that a school can't make better choices than many of the parents? I would say it depends on the school and the parents.

  37. corrie April 15, 2011 at 5:23 am #

    My son is not allowed to each school lunch. I would need a doctor's note and ingredient list from his school explaining to me why he should eat it.

  38. Anonymous April 15, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    I think banning certain items from home lunches would be more appropriate to say then no brown bags, however how can you police that? i think if the school can show that the food theyre serving the kids is consistantly better for them in freshness and quality (ie salads and fresh veggies and such along with a not overly processed meal) and they can supply two different types of meals for the child who hates ham but likes chicken, sure ban the bags, but until then i would constantly send my kids with bags.

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  40. momof3 April 15, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    I have no problem with a school issuing guidelines or rules for what can be in a school lunch. As long as those rules are reasonable. There are schools that do no allow lunch items that aren't pre-packaged which is environmentally wasteful, more expensive, and just stupid.

    It is the last day of school before our spring break, my kids have an egg salad sandwich (shaped like an egg, shredded carrots and (gasp of horror) a marshmelllow peep inside an easter egg. Now, if the school had a rule against sugary items, I wouldn't pack it.

    But, they don't. My kids are not overweight, they run and play every day, have no sensitivities and it's nice to pack them a treat once in awhile.

  41. Jenna @kidappeal April 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    some foods are distracting to the learning process. they either don't give the child's brain the nutrients it needs to function, learn and remember (example: two donuts and a juice) or the make it hard for the brain to pay attention, make decisions and stay calm (like chemical additives, excitotoxins and artificial food dyes, example: a lunchable with a blue drink).

    i don't think parents or schools or goverment has the right to malnourish kids, or add toxins to their food that make it not only hard for the child to learn, but the teacher to teach and the district to educate children cost effectively.

    how much teaching re-do could be avoided if each student had a chemical free lunch with all the nutrients the child's brain needed to learn? how much $ could be saved on special services for attention disorder students? how much $ could be saved on reduction in referrals based on behavoirs that stem from chemical additives in food.

    i don't think parents have the right to trash their kids health. nor does the govt. or the school. anyone that feeds kids needs to get it right.

    we can pay now (by giving every student nourishing food) or pay later in remedial lessons, alternative schools, policing kids who never learn enough to get skills they need to earn a wage and turn to criminal activities as a way to survive, and future health care costs for a generation of kids who will become sick, undereducated people.

    this is not about parental rights. this is about doing the right thing for a child.

    if the school learns a parent is letting their kid stay up late, not helping with homework, doesn't help them get clean clothes or a bath, etc. they try to help the child. they do try to protect that child from the parent who is neglecting their role.

    likewise if a school learns a parent thinks it's ok to send blue kool-aid and donuts for lunch, the school has a RESPONSIBILITY to the child to get the child some help gaining access to the nutrients that will help the child learn. the school also has a responsibility to the tax-payer to manage a learning environment where all students can learn. the school has responsibility to the community to turn a child into a thinking young adult so he/she can support themselves, contribute to the local economy. the school has a responsibility to a nation to create innovators and workers who can maintain our current standard of living and hopefully future prosperity.

    our country will have none of that if schools, parents, restaurants and food industry keeps serving chemicalized non-nutritive food-like substances to kids and calling it a meal.

    just like a school manages a dress code so students don't wear shirts with profane messaging or images, schools should manage lunch box and lunch try components allowing only chemical free, nutrient dense foods. beyond that, they should take a role in teaching a child how to fuel their brain and body for energy, learning and wellness.

    apologies for typos, no time to edit.

  42. N. April 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    If you think about it, the children are in the care of the school during that time and so I feel the school should have some say in what's appropriate for kids to eat on school grounds and what's not.

  43. Anonymous April 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

    Where do you draw the line? What if I pack my child a wholesome homemade lunch but it includes white rice and the school says it's not healthy enough because I didn't use brown? What if I pack tofu and someone else objects because of studies saying it is harmful to young boys? What if I pack green tea and someone objects because if the caffeine? Or homemade chicken soup but it is not organic? My "healthy" may not be your "healthy" even though I dont't pack Soda and cheetos. So where do you draw the line with what a real healthy lunch should be? You can't, so every parent must decide for themselves. Some parents don't consider carrots and corn to be "real" vegetables because they are too sugary and starchy, other kids might never see something as healthy as a carrot in their school lunch. How do you legislate carrots?

  44. Anonymous April 16, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    My kids' preschool sends out lunch guidelines to parents. Lunches must have 4 out of 5 food groups in them and no candy or dessert. Things with sugar (sweetened yogurt, etc.) are fine. It works for us; it's a good guideline to keep in mind when packing lunch, and our kids eat just about everything. If they don't finish their lunches, we presume they weren't that hungry.

    Would that be so hard for K-12 (or at least K-8)? These are school-age kids we're talking about, not adults. We allow the school district to determine what books our kids read in school, how they learn math, etc., because we presume they have some expertise. Are we crazy to presume they might know more about what kids need and will eat than many parents?

  45. Lauren April 16, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    I completely agree with Jenna, and I also agree with everyone saying it's a cop out. Education is so important. It's easy for us (food enthusiasts!) to wag our fingers at these parents who send their kids to school with poor lunches, but some of them simply don't know better. I understand the neglect argument (and initially agreed with it), but my mom used to pack me TERRIBLE lunches, but I did not feel neglected. She and my father are AMAZING parents; they just happen to be ignorant about food and nutrition. Here in rural South Dakota, we eat the typical "meat and potato" fare, and if vegetables are included, it's corn. Blah! I'm so glad I'm on my own now and can enjoy my organic, flexitarian, whole foods diet. 🙂 But anyway, my parents represent a huge portion of our nation, I think. It's not that they don't care; they just don't KNOW any better. Their kids stayed skinny, so they saw no reason to ditch the Little Debbie snacks. Thus, banning does nothing. Education is always the answer.

  46. Amy April 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    I'm pretty sure when you heard about this school banning home lunches, you immediately thought nutrition. It really doesn't have anything to do with that. I'm a teacher, and a similar decision was made at my school. There were issues of lunches being left in lockers for weeks and rats in the school. There were stolen lunches. There were forgotten lunches. There were students who sold lunch items to other students. There were kids who brought knives in their lunch boxes. There were kids who packed liquor in their coke bottles. And then finally, at the end of the long list, was nutrition. So, as you can see, banning lunches from home is not all about the food. There are so many social and behavioral issues that go along with lunch, that need to be curbed. Not every parent packs a PB+J. Some lunches are much more ominous…..

  47. Anonymous April 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Hmm. I pack my kids' lunches every day, and my kids prefer homemade lunches to the Chartwells offerings at their school. But I didn't immediately go into outraged Tea Party mode when I heard about a school banning home-packed lunches. I have to think there are really legitimate reasons for doing this that maybe we haven't all considered. Was this particular school encountering so much junk in the packed lunches that they thought it might be having a negative impact on classroom alertness and behavior? Were there other safety issues at this particular school that might not have applied to your kids' school or my kids' school? I really do think the whole relationship between diet and behavior in children has been ignored. Schools are supposed to teach, and if they are finding evidence that very few parents have nutritional common sense and are allowing their children to pack junk day in and day out, wouldn't you think it is a smart thing for schools to start setting nutritional norms for the kids through the lunch program? I mean, where else is it going to happen if not at school?

  48. Anonymous April 21, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    How is feeding kids high fructose syrup and genetically modified corn/foods any better? Welcome to Germany 1942…I mean the land of the Free…

  49. Anonymous May 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    I disagree with banning home packed lunches. I mean, what about children with special dietary concerns and food allergies? What about Vegan and vegetarian children? Will we force them to eat chicken nuggets and hot dogs?

    Will the ingredient lists of the food that they'll be serving children be made available to the parents? I highly doubt that.

    Yes, nutrition is important. Making sure that our kids are healthy is important, but making sure that our children live beyond the elementary school cafeteria is also important.

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