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KIWI magazine

Schools banning homemade lunches: Necessary intervention or overstepping boundaries?Packing school lunches everyday can be a bit of a chore, but how would you feel if your child’s school decided you weren’t fit to decide what to feed her for lunch? One Chicago elementary school has done just that by banning home-packed lunches.

Elsa Carmona, the principal of Little Village Academy, decided to ban lunches brought from home after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” for lunch on school field trips, reports an article in The Chicago Tribune. “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,” Carmona said.

Though the school’s intentions seemed to be in the right place when they implemented the policy six years ago, and a lot of attention has recently been focused on the poor nutritional quality of some school lunches across the nation, the bagged lunch ban is still receiving criticism from parents and students. Many feel the decision infringes on parents’ rights to decide not only what food their child eats, but where that food comes from. And Little Village students and parents alike point out that much of the cafeteria’s food ends up being thrown away because it doesn’t taste good, resulting in significant food waste as well as hungry kids. Only students with allergies or other medical issues can bring food from home. There’s also the issue of cost: While about 86 percent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced price school lunch, those who don’t qualify are forced to pay the full daily meal price of $2.25, which parents argue is higher than what a homemade lunch would cost.

Regardless, we don’t know what’s on Little Village’s lunch menu. It could be that they are offering balanced, nutritious meals; and according to the article at least some parents believe the cafeteria food is healthier than what kids might bring from home.

This tough love approach is just one of many ways people are trying to reform school food: from the government’s efforts to improve the quality of school lunches with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, to a Chicago school teacher who started a blog to protest the city’s school lunches. But is Little Village’s policy the right way to help kids eat healthier? You tell us—should schools be able to ban homemade lunches?

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