School takes health initiative too far

By Editorial Board

Little Village Academy, 2620 S. Lawndale Ave., is prohibiting students from bringing home-packed lunches to school in an attempt to get students to eat healthier. The principal, Elsa Carmona, told the Chicago Tribune that the school is providing students with healthier food than they would ordinarily bring from home. The school makes exceptions for students with allergies or other specific medical restrictions, but everyone else is required to eat the allegedly more nutritious lunches provided by the school.

While it’s good to see educators taking an interest in their students’ health and nutrition—especially with childhood obesity rates skyrocketing in recent years—Little Village Academy may have taken too many steps in the right direction. It’s great the school encourages students to eat healthier and also provides them with the means to do so.

However, banning all outside food seems extreme. It takes away some of parents’ authority regarding what their kids are eating, and they’re the ones who are ultimately responsible for raising and feeding healthy children. Requiring students to eat school lunches also imposes a financial burden on families that don’t qualify for free or reduced-cost meals, for whom it might be cheaper to pack lunches at home.

There’s also the fact that some students are reportedly refusing to eat the school’s healthy meals at all because they don’t like them. Eating some sort of lunch—whatever its nutritional value may be—is healthier than not eating at all, so perhaps the academy should consider more leniency with its policy on outside food. If the school gave parents some guidelines about what kinds of foods their kids could bring to school, it would allow them to have more of a say in what they eat. It would also give students more options to encourage them to actually eat rather than go hungry under the current totalitarian ban on all outside food. The academy could also consider increasing the amount of healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria.

Schools have the unique opportunity to improve children’s eating habits for at least part of every day, and it’s good to see schools seizing that opportunity. Little Village Academy certainly deserves recognition for making an effort toward that end. However, the school should abandon its “all-or-nothing” mentality to ensure it isn’t doing more harm than good to kids’ eating habits and respect parents’ influence in regard to what their children are eating.