At [7th-grader Fernando Dominguez's] 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.
Oh … so principals are apparently allowed to do this in the Chicago school system. Nice.
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.”
Mike Brownfield at Heritage’s Foundry blog responds:
Never mind that the kids don’t like the food (the Tribune cites examples of parents and students complaining). The government is doing what it thinks is best when they know parents can’t parent, right? That same logic has led to a ban on Happy Meal toys in Santa Clara, Calif., a ban on trans fat in New York City, a soda pop tax in Baltimore, Md., a whole host of “sin taxes” by Congress, and calorie counts on vending machines to scare us from snacking.
So where do individual responsibility, choice and liberty come in? They don’t. That’s one lesson kids will learn quickly in the nanny state.
I bet Michelle Obama is so proud.
Update – 5:20 PM: Aaron Worthing, guesting at Patterico’s, adds this:
There is a certain attitude around these days, most prevalently on the left, that schools should be used to teach children the right beliefs about everything (except faith, naturally), from environmentalism to socialism, to everything. It’s reason 44,324 why we should have vouchers.