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Apr 12, 2011 10:26 AM

Brown Bag Lunches on Endangered List?

I was surprised to read this:

I think there are more reasons *not* to force a school lunch policy than there are to support it. I am also remembering what was on offer in the school cafeterias during my time. Perhaps the meals are more nutritious now, but considering the complaints I've heard from mothers about those school lunches in the not-too distant past, I am skeptical. I also remember times when my parents couldn't *afford* to pay for those meals, and were able to give us lunches we liked, for a fraction of the cost.

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  1. i think it's absurd. for one thing, the meals aren't free, and i imagine there may be a legal issue with forcing kids/parents to pay for what the cafeteria offers. then of course there are the moral, ethical & health-related concerns...if kids with allergies are allowed to bring their lunch, what about those with Celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance? or those who keep Kosher? or abstain from certain foods for other ethical or religious reasons? and what about the fact that many of the kids apparently throw out their school food uneaten because they say it tastes bad? is the school going to accept responsibility for the potential impact that those skipped meals can have on classroom performance and the student's health?

    these kids aren't prisoners, they shouldn't be treated as such.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Agreed, on all points. My first thought was that this was motivated by financial gain, but given that most schools simply don't have a generous budget for their kitchen, it seems unlikely.

    2. I would be very upset if this ever happened in our town. Mom packs delicious and healthy lunches for our son. On the days he does buy lunch he spends between $3.40 and $6!! And he is only 5! I wish I could implant a camera in his head so I could see if he is really eating all that stuff!

      4 Replies
      1. re: AdamD

        You wouldn't believe how many apples I threw away. ;)

        1. re: onceadaylily

          Ha ha ha. Its not so much the food from home-its that when he buys lunch, I can go online and see what I paid for.
          Lunch 3/31
          1 Student Meal - 2.40
          1 2nd Lunch E - 1.50
          1 String Cheese - 0.50
          1 Frozen Fruit Bar - 1.25

          2 lunches, string cheese and a fruit bar? Got to have a talk with that boy!

          1. re: AdamD

            That sounds like my 9 yo. I used to put money on his account, then "allow" him to buy 1x/week. Feeding frenzy as evidenced by his purchase record. Now I dole out $2.20 on the agreed-upon buying day.

            1. re: tcamp

              Unfortunately, I cant give money to the 5 year old just yet. He only buys twice a week, so its not that expensive, but I dont like the idea of him using daddy's credit card to do as he pleases!

      2. SInce the article lists precisely 1 school district that has such a policy, I'm not too worried about a national epidemic of brownbag bans. School lunches in our district costs full-pay kids $2.20, which includes milk. I let my elementary aged kid buy once a week; the rest of the week he brings from home. Usually leftovers (pasta w/ meat sauce, fried rice, etc.), a burrito, or cheese and crackers. Also a piece of fruit and a few tortilla chips or a yogurt. Middle school child won't eat the school lunches due to mild germ phobia so he eats homemade every day.

        I thought it interesting that one parent cited in the article packs her kids lunch to include a sandwich, goldfish crackers (aka kid chow), and milk. Way to include fruits and veggies, mom!

        5 Replies
        1. re: tcamp

          Way to include fruits and veggies, mom!
          maybe there's lettuce and tomato on the sandwich? ;)

          1. re: tcamp

            The first of anything is usually singular, tcamp. I was surprised that a school district close to me was able to pull this off, and hope the policy changes soon enough. Our family, by then single-parented, stopped bringing our lunch when I was in high school, and the price then (in a non-urban area) was in the two dollar range, and my mother struggled to come up with that every week for the three of us.

            And the lunch cited may well be the *average* brown bag affair . . . it was similar to mine, growing up (save for the always included apple or banana). We had fruit at breakfast, and vegetables at dinner. The lunch itself could be indicative of the child's larger diet, but perhaps not.

            1. re: tcamp

              If you go to the source article, the spokesperson for the district stated she didn't know how many schools have the policy, as it's left to the individual principals.

              1. re: tcamp

                The yahoo blog was triggered by a Chicago Tribute article


                The Tribune article focuses on one school, not a district. Furthermore the policy has been in effect for 6 years.
                "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."

                1. re: paulj

                  i read the Tribune article yesterday morning, so my comments were actually based on that. i still don't think it's right, and i'd be willing to bet that the food they serve at school isn't more nutritiously balanced than what ALL of the kids would bring from home. and one of the things that i found most troubling was the admission that some of the kids don't eat *at all* because they don't like the school food. that's really not okay. obviously there are situations where kids don't want to eat what their parents make for them either, but my guess is that if the kids were allowed to choose between bringing their lunch from home and buying it at school, then at least they'd eat *something* instead of skipping it completely.

                  BTW, paulj, my comments aren't directed at just happened to be the one who posted the link to the full Tribune article :)

              2. I wish there was more information (although I suspect more will be forthcoming). I'd be very curious to know exactly what is in the school lunches. I've seen two articles with unsourced photos, one a sparse tray with a very unappetizing "glop," one with a segmented tray filled with some sad, mushy carrots, a sandwich on white bread, a couple slices of processed cheese and something pink in a carton (probably strawberry milk but perhaps fruit juice of some sort).

                Legal arguments aside (and I'm an attorney), the whole policy is just plain confusing. My cynical side says this is simple: This is Chicago, after all, not exactly a stranger to cronyism, and somebody on the school board must have financial ties to the food providers.

                On a somewhat related not (but a non-sequitur nonetheless), I grew up largely in public school in the Midwest in the '70s and '80s. School lunch was a joke, and I went to school every day witha brown bag. Largely for three years (late elementary school), I had the same thing: peanut butter on crackers (the home kind, not the packaged crap), some carrots and/or cauliflower and a can of Coke. Sometimes there was a piece of cheese or a homemade cookie or brownie for dessert. (I was very underweight as a child and still am fairly lactose intolerant.)

                1. How utterly ridiculous. I'm so tired of this nanny state mentality. Ugh.

                  What if I don't WANT my son or daughter to be eating certain items? What if I don't like the quality of the beef the school uses? What if I don't trust their produce source? Why on earth would my parental rights to feed my own school age children as I see fit be stripped down?

                  This is outrageous. I hope this policy goes down in flames.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: daydream

                    But the intended purpose of the policy was to improve nutrition, by restricting the junk food that many children were bringing. You also need to consider the neighborhood and nature of the school. It appears that this a magnet school in a strongly hispanic (83%) neigborhood.

                    This is the schools mission statement
                    " La Academia Little Village proporcionara un programa académico desafiante e integro el cual preparara a todo estudiante para que se realicen como miembros exitosos, educados, y responsables de nuestra sociedad. Nos asociaremos con los padres de familia y la comunidad para asegurar a todo estudiante un ambiente seguro positivo."


                    This isn't a gentrified neighborhood with lots of organic moms who need to micromanage their childrens' food intake. Median income not as low as North Lawndale, but lower than the other neighboring communities.

                    I did a search for 'organic' on Google maps centered on Little Village. The closest find was miles away, a Whole Foods in the south Loop.