Chicago School Says No to Lunches Brought From Home

As many parents can attest, for the most part kids don't always make the healthiest food choices. Some schools, like Little Village Academy in Chicago, have decided to step up and do something about unhealthy eating habits. But most schools, unlike Little Village Academy, haven't expressly forbidden students from brown-bagging it. Is Little Village's approach too extreme?

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'Common Sense Judgment'

For Little Village Academy Principal Elsa Carmona, it's all about good intentions and common sense. And protecting students from what can sometimes be their own worst enemy: themselves.

After six years of watching kids bring junk food for lunches, to the school and on field trips, Carmona put her policy into practice. Hers may be the only institution within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to ban home-packed lunches (exceptions are made for medical conditions).

CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond, in an e-mail to the Chicago Tribune in April 2011, stated there is 'no formal policy' when it comes to bagged lunches at schools, and that 'principals use common sense judgment based on their individual school environments.'

First Lady's Efforts Pay Off

Michelle Obama wants to eradicate childhood obesity, and in December 2010 her husband might have helped her take the first step to do so.

Last year President Obama signed into law the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which helps ensure healthier food served in schools, not just in cafeterias but in vending machines and during fundraising events as well. The bill also increases the number of children eligible for free lunches.

Considering this Act, could Little Village's policy extend beyond that one school? Some say yes. And it might already have started: at a South Side elementary school kids can still bring in their own lunches, but any sugar- or salt-laden snacks are taken away.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water. . .

But you can't make it drink, as the saying goes. And you can introduce good nutrition to school kids, but you can't make them eat. And that's exactly what officials at Little Village are seeing.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune in April, many kids took the nutritious lunches. . .but fed much of them to the cafeteria wastebaskets. Quite simply, the kids say the food 'tastes bad.' One student even led others on a 'We should bring our own lunch!' chant as the Tribune reporter watched.

Some parents like the policy, others do not. Some, like Erica Martinez, feel that the kids should be allowed to bring in their own lunches so they could 'at least eat something.' A grandparent, Anna Torrez, echoed, 'I think they should be able to bring their lunch. Other schools let them.'

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