A piece I read on NPR has me thinking. It seems that in Great Britain, where schools are making strides to provide healthy meals for students in the cafeteria, the lunches that children bring from home are now under attack. Staff members in a Gloucestershire school district have been opening lunchboxes, photographing the contents, and sending home notes with advice about how to improve the quality of the lunches.
Wow. I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I’m not sure whether to say, “Good for them” or “How dare they?” Really, I’m torn.
I believe it is the responsibility of the school to provide healthy, nutritionally sound meals for our children. I believe that school lunches should match what the schools teach children about nutrition in health class. I remember a couple of years ago when my son came home from a health class and told me all about a lesson on what a healthy meal should look like. I asked him if the lunches in the cafeteria matched what was being taught in the classroom. He laughed and said “no way.”
That’s why I pack my boys lunches most of the time. They do buy lunch occasionally, and I always feel a little guilty when they do. Most days they leave the house with a lunchbox. If anyone ever secretly photographed the contents of my children’s lunchbox, whether they found the contents acceptable or not, I’d have a huge problem with it.
I know what is in my boys’ lunch boxes may not always be perfect, but I know it’s a lot better than what is being served in the cafeteria. I also know that what’s in some other kids’ lunchboxes is just as bad or even worse than what is being served in the cafeteria.
Therein lies the problem. The few times I’ve been in the cafeteria and seen some of the food the children bring from home — individual packages of chips, cookies, high-fructose laden fruity drinks with little else in the box — I want to give parents a little friendly advice myself. But I wouldn’t give advice unless another parent asked for it, and I don’t think others should offer unsolicited advice either. It’s stepping over the line of allowing parents to make choices for their own children, even if those choices could be better.
So where’s the solution here? If a school takes the time to improve the foods fed to the children, does it then have the right to admonish parents who don’t do the same?
The NPR piece suggested that the “food police are already active in American public schools” and photos of our children’s lunches may not be far behind. How would you react if you found out this was happening in your school district?
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