A public school on Chicago’s West Side has sparked controversy with a ban on home-packed lunches.
Little Village Academy implemented the ban six years ago, after Principal Elsa Cormona observed students bringing soda and chips to school. Cormona says her goal is to protect the students from their own unhealthy food choices and that the school, which has recently improved its nutritional standards, offers healthier options. There are exceptions to the rule for children with allergies.
However, some children and parents are unhappy with the policy. Students have complained that the food tastes bad, and the Chicago Tribune reported on a recent visit that children were throwing cafeteria food in the trash. Parents are concerned that picky eaters won’t eat at all, as no other options are provided. Cost is also a concern; students who don’t qualify for a free or reduced lunch pay $2.25. Many parents say they can pack a lunch for less.
This issue also raises the broader question of government’s role in food choices and how much intervention is appropriate at a time when childhood obesity is high.
Monique Bond, spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools, said the school system leaves lunch policy up to the discretion of each principal.