04.12.2011 1

The Public School Ban on Homemade Lunches

By Rebekah Rast – The public school lunch program is again making headlines.

You might have thought this issue was already resolved when Obama signed into law the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a bill strongly supported by First Lady Michelle Obama in her effort to curb childhood obesity. Through this law, school breakfasts, lunches and vending machines were refashioned to be more nutritious and offer only healthy options.

But now the issue is back, and school officials have now launched a ban on homemade lunches.

At public school Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home, reports the Chicago Tribune, instead students must eat school-provided lunches, or not eat at all.

The Chicago Tribune goes on to report that school Principal Elsa Carmona, “created the policy six years ago after watching students bring ‘bottles of soda and flaming hot chips’ on field trips for their lunch.”

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” The Chicago Tribune recorded Carmona as saying. “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.”

It appears that school officials think they know how to better meet the needs of their students than the student’s actual caretakers. At least students with health and allergy concerns get a pass.

When giving this new idea of banning homemade lunches a closer look, a different motive on behalf of school officials begins to surface.

When students are forced to get lunch in the school cafeteria, they are forced to spend money on that lunch. Where does that money go? According to the Chicago Tribune, “Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.”

That makes much more sense. Especially after seeing how public school teachers reacted to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s law ending their collective bargaining rights. The last thing on those teachers’ minds was their students as they spent days protesting causing entire school districts to shut down. It seemed odd that school officials would really be pushing this new mandate through claiming they only have the student’s best interests in mind.

The more the government intrudes on the lives of Americans, the less freedom its people have.

Since Obama has been President, Congress has passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, restructuring school lunch programs to be more nutrition conscience; ObamaCare, included a federal-menu labeling law that affects restaurants with 20 or more locations by forcing them to put nutritional information for menu items on the menus themselves, menu boards and even drive-thrus. This law also requires vending machine owners to comply by the same rules. And, in April 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a plan to begin limiting the amount of salt allowed in processed foods. Though it does not know what the reduced sodium levels will be, the FDA hopes to implement the plan over a 10-year span.

It seems this Congress, Obama’s administration and school officials have forgotten that eating at McDonald’s is a choice.

“It is not the job of the federal government or school officials to be regulating diets,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). “That is the job of the parents. Leaders, whether it is the President of the United States or principal of a public school, should not be using taxpayer money to further their nanny state antics.”

Another Chicago school allows the students to bring homemade lunches but confiscates all sugar- or sodium-packed snacks. Principal Rebecca Stinson of Claremont Academy Elementary School said, “that though students may not like it, she has yet to hear a parent complain.”

Parents might start complaining after they realize their child is starving since many students don’t want to eat the cafeteria food. But then again, that fits right into Michelle Obama’s whole goal — children who don’t eat, won’t gain weight or someday be obese.

Looks like her “Let’s Move” initiative is taking a whole new identity within Chicago’s school system with “Let’s tell you exactly what you can and cannot eat.”

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. You can follow her on Twitter at @RebekahRast.

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