There is a shroud of controversy involving a Chicago public school that has a ban on lunches brought from students' homes because the administration feels the nutrition is better from the school cafeteria. To this I have two words: Right on.
It's not that all school lunches are so fabulous. Hello, one trip through Googleland with the phrase "school lunch obesity" will remind you of your own school lunch days that included a pile of fat next to a greasy ball of sugar. Um . . . "teeny cornies and fries" anyone? But when what to eat for lunch becomes a lesser of two evils, like say, a can of soda and a bag of Cheetos versus an institutional tray that indeed includes vegetables and fruit, I have to go with the latter.
So what if you don't agree. If the students were bringing organic whole grains with a side of mind-calming fiber we wouldn't be having this discussion. In some communities that is the norm and no way should a school ban those type of lunches. But an administration doesn't make decisions based on the goings-on of communities on the north shore, where beautiful Land's End lunch boxes are carefully assembled with groceries from Whole Foods and mineral water by doting, post-career stay-at-home mothers.
The community with the lunch ban has a median income of around $32,000 a year. What does that buy you in the city? Think about it. Raising a family that includes school-aged children on a budget that would squeeze a single person in an urban area does not leave much room for expensive, healthy, delicious foods. It's the American poverty crisis - the poor get poorer.
With the other basics of survival (housing, for one) taking up most of an income like that, there simply isn't room in the family budget for the luxury of nourishing, delicious food. The default food group becomes junk. Hey, french fries and soft drinks are cheap and kinda tasty on the buds, but what does that sugar and fat do for concentration in the classroom? If a cafeteria in a school can provide a more nutritious alternative and the administration wants to better the community, I have nothing but praise for them.
In low-income communities, schools bear a greater burden of childhood development to begin with. If I were given that kind of responsibility, as an administrator I would make decisions about my students' diet as well. Buh-bye, soda! Hello broccoli casserole thing and cardboard quart of milk!
My kid is a bougie urban brat! Here she is with her friend learning a nutrition lesson in the kiddie kitchen at Make A Messterpiece on a field trip to the Glen yesterday. (More on that later. Maybe.) Thanks, Lillian!
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