Chicago school to kids: You can't bring lunch from home

If only there was a pop-up version of “Atlas Shrugged” available for children to raise their awareness at an impressionable age. It’d be fantastic: 500 pages long, and the last 150 would be pop-ups of John Galt’s head where you move his jaw while he talks and talks and talks…

Wasteful, expensive, counterproductive, irritating to countless people who are subject to it: Clearly this is a policy the feds should consider taking national.

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

“Some of the kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast,” said Little Village parent Erica Martinez. “So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something.”…

“This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility,” said J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, which is partially funded by the food industry.

“Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?” Wilson said. “This is the perfect illustration of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again. Some parents may want to pack a gluten-free meal for a child, and others may have no problem with a child enjoying soda.”

For many CPS parents, the idea of forbidding home-packed lunches would be unthinkable. If their children do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals,
such a policy would require them to pay $2.25 a day for food they don’t necessarily like.

“We don’t spend anywhere close to that on my son’s daily intake of a sandwich (lovingly cut into the shape of a Star Wars ship), Goldfish crackers and milk,” education policy professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach wrote in an email.

Maybe the school could compromise by cutting bricks of vegetables into Star Wars shapes. Yahoo’s “Lookout” blog sniffed around and, as far as they can tell, Little Falls is the only school in America that out-and-out bars homemade lunches from school property. But others have taken baby steps in that direction, banning desserts or sugary drinks (just like the, er, “principal” of Boston did on “school” property). Given the growing attention to obesity as a public health problem, there’s no reason to believe the trend won’t continue. It’s the logic of child services agencies extended to a nutritional context: If mom and dad can’t provide Billy with a healthy environment, then the state will step in and do it for them. Can’t wait for that debate to take shape, especially as we sally forth into the golden age of the individual mandate and compulsory purchases for health-related reasons.

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Jazz Shaw 8:01 PM on December 06, 2022