Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Food for thought

This week the Chicago Tribune reported a story about a ban on homemade lunches at Little Village Academy, a public school.

Seems the principal at the school decided to enact the moratorium six years ago after seeing some of the junk food kids brought with them on field trips. She contends school lunches are healthier and should be required of students who don't have health concerns or allergies that would prevent partaking in the meals.

When I first read the story I immediately thought "of all the incredibly bone-headed things ..."

I started listing the outrages in my mind:

So parents wouldn't be able to pack ... say ... This:


School-made lunches aren't any healthier ... We all know the stories about how healthy school lunches really are: Chicken nuggets, hot dogs, hamburgers, mozzarella sticks, pizza (that's a typical weekly menu at our school, anyway). Here's a sampling of school lunches from flickr.

The lunches certainly aren't any cheaper ... if you don't qualify for a subsidy it's, on average, $2.25 a day on top of your now inflated grocery bills.

And most kids toss them out if they don't like the offerings. So as officials are demanding food revolutions, some kids aren't eating anything during the day, and families are paying for the privilege of their kids going hungry.

There are just so many Head-Meet-Wall Stories my wee brain can take.

I'd like to think we come up with cockamamie ideas and turn them into rules because we truly mean well. But mostly what I think happens is that people see a problem they have no idea how to fix and so they start making new and often useless rules.

Which makes me wonder what exactly do educators know if not education? It seems to me they are in a perfect position to inform parents on healthier choices and they can do it through our children.

I know my fifth-grade teacher showed me the joys of yoga and eating whole wheat bread ... and my mother happily indulged those changes.

Of course, some parents will still pack their kids' lunches with sodas and candy and high-fat snacks. ... So how do schools control what students eat? The answer seems simple enough to me: They can't. Not entirely. The best they can hope to do is influence it ... and offer more exercise.

Which leads me to wonder what happens when schools try control food? After six years there should be some positive change in obesity rates at Little Village Academy, don't you think? The story never mentioned if there was.


Anonymous said...

Another exercise in inanity from school administrators. This one kinda goes hand in hand with the decree that you can't ride your bike or walk to school.

I can't even imagine the practical implications of this -- how could they meet every child's dietary needs? My daughter can have absolutely no dairy, in anything, so what would the school feed her? Others have gluten issues, not to mention all the food allergies.

No, I wouldn't expect that this would have any effect on obesity. It's one portion of the day's food, and if kids are in homes where there's fast food and lots of processed snacks, one sandwich on whole wheat bread isn't going to fix that.

Carl said...

Sorry, that wasn't supposed to be anonymous!

Kelly @ Student of the Year said...

Move, move, move. I like your thinking, and I agree that it's more the answer than trying to dictate what parents can and can't pack. When we were younger, we ate a lot of crap. Pure crap. The difference was that we were constantly riding bikes, climbing trees, moving. That, IMO, is the main difference between childhood yesterday and today.

toyfoto said...

Kelly, Carl: excellent points. One of the things we have to admit in relation to obesity is fear.

We don't let kids walk/bike to school because we as a society fear strangers, traffic and any and all manner of other potential harms that we feel we can prevent.

We've tried to get around it through organized activity that often means kids stand around and wait their turns more than they actively play.

I've been looking at some schools' memos on bullying and I wonder if it will just get harder. They've isolated where most bullying happens ... places where kids still have some autonomy, like the playground. How long before those are gone, too?

Carl said...

I despair, I'm afraid. Bullying is a fact of life. What schools should do (and what ours did do) is address it when it happens. Stamping it out is impossible and ridiculous -- but that's what they go for. Same with zero-tolerance for drugs, which means that if my kid is caught with her migraine medicine she can (and probably will) be suspended, honors student or no. We've turned into a one-size-fits-no-one society, where foolish consistency is valued over any level of judgment, because it is lawsuit-proof. I don't like it.

toyfoto said...

I'm with you. Having the idea that we can eradicate bullying with broad legislation and policy is more dangerous seeming to me than bullying itself.
And lawsuits are just as inevitable. You can't protect against the frivolous ones by making new rules.