Chicago School Bans Homemade Lunches; Coronado Moms Discuss

Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side banned homemade lunches, except for those children with food allergies. It’s a decision that has parents across the country up in arms.

The school says the ban is meant to help control the nutritional and caloric intake of its students. After all, about one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, and they consume about 30 percent of their daily calories at school, according to a 2010 study by Health Affairs.

Still, many parents feel the homemade lunch ban is a step too far. They long for the time-honored tradition of packing their children’s lunches in brown-paper sacs each morning.

An additional concern is the price of the new lunch program. Students at Little Village must now eat at the school’s cafeteria, which costs $2.25 per day, putting an extra financial burden on some families.

Either way, childhood obesity continues to be an epidemic in this country, and many public figures have voiced their concern. First lady Michelle Obama, for example, openly supports the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which calls for stricter nutritional guidelines for students that eat lunch at school every day.

But is banning homemade lunches the way to go about it?

Our Coronado Moms Council weighs in—figuratively speaking, of course. 

Tonia Accetta: I have always struggled with the food served at the schools for lunch. I can not see the point in paying to have lunch ladies that just heat up frozen pre-packaged food, some of which looks like it could come out of a vending machine. I send my kids to school with packed lunches, but agree that this is not the solution,  just the best of two bad options. It could be that a 100 percent commitment to school dinners that are homemade by cooks in the kitchen would be the best option, so I have to commend this school in Chicago for making an attempt to solve a big problem. People will always rebel against change.

Morgan Benzian: Banning homemade lunches as an effort to control childhood obesity is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot. I agree that measures need to be taken to reduce access to unhealthy foods at school, but it is horribly naive to assume that school cafeteria food is healthier than a brown-bag lunch. Not only do the nutritional standards for school lunches need to change, but there also needs to be a move toward educating children on how to create better eating habits. The school does not have the right to force parents to stop making homemade lunches for their children, and for most of these kids, a brown-bag lunch is far healthier than a cafeteria food lunch. 

Tam Dorow: Remember college dorm food? Yeah, they were “great.” Let’s start eating those at a younger age.

If school lunches were nutritionally complete, healthy, delicious, fresh and offering a few choices at a reasonable price, then GREAT! Sign me up for two. I don’t like making lunches in the morning. And who wants to eat a lunch at noon that was prepared at 7:30 a.m. and has been schlepped around through 3 or 4 class periods? BUT most schools cannot afford to provide the lunches specified above at a reasonable cost, at least not the public schools in the U.S. There are some private schools with mandatory school lunch programs that adequately meet those specifications, but they are expensive. During our current cost-cutting economy, banning homemade lunches makes even less sense.

Schools need to stick to their core competencies, educating our children. Let parents feed, house, clothe and provide a moral compass for our kids. 

Lynette Penn: The homemade lunch ban is ridiculous! What if my child has food restrictions for medical reasons?  Diabetic, lactose intolerant, allergies, etc. Frankly I wouldn’t want to trust anyone to make sure my son or daughter’s health was not compromised. Should that be the exception, then I would have to invent an “allergy” just to be the one to feed my child. I can understand the concern for healthy lunches for our children, but when did parents get to stop being parents, and why is it someone else’s responsibility to pick up the slack? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This would make it easier for parents who can’t seem to be responsible parents to continue to not parent … and impossible for those who do want to care for their children in the manner they choose to do so.  

Jan Spear: No more brown bags or cute themed lunch boxes for the greater good of healthy nutritious food in school cafeterias? I think Not! I prefer to think moms still know best. What about picky eaters or food allergies or special dietary needs? Who’s watching out for our children? Although obesity is up in our country, taking away our choice to prepare a bagged lunch is not going to fix the problem. Education is. Kids can still choose an unhealthy mix of foods at school.

Suzette Valle: The obesity rate in our country is alarmingly high, and it seems parents aren’t doing enough to help their own children manage their weight. However, I think this new school initiative is going too far. Taking away parents’ rights to feed their kids is just wrong. I don’t trust school lunch menus because they haven’t been the healthiest either, and lately have put profit before quality. Food at public schools is coming out of bags, boxes, cans and freezers. Until I see hot or homemade items in school cafeterias, I think parents should still have the option to send their kids to school with whatever food they see fit.

What’s next, will school cafeterias be cutting up kids’ (mystery) meat for them, too?

Meet our Moms:

Tonia Accetta is a British born, boarding-school educated, stay-at-home mom of a teenage boy and a preteen girl. She moved to Coronado in 2002 from Florida with her husband of 15 years looking for a better school system than Florida had to offer. Both children attend Coronado Unified Schools. She is currently on the Coronado Youth Softball board covering many positions (offers of help are always welcome!), and she is a co-leader and cookie mom for Girl Scout Troop 5039.

Morgan Benzian, a third-generation San Diegan, is a domestic goddess and stay-at-home mom to Emma and Annie. She first fell in love with Coronado Island in 1996, and then years later fell in love with a Coronado resident. Morgan, her husband, Whitney, and their two daughters enjoy looking at the aquarium inside Bay Books, lunching at the Yacht Club, picnics at Pomona Park, and bike rides around the island. She is a regular contributor for Coronado Patch. You can also read more of her work at thelittlehenhouse.com.

Tam Dorow emigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. when she was 10 years old, and grew up in Lansing, MI. She has a B.S. in Engineering from Michigan State University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. She worked at all Big 3 US car companies in Engineering and International Finance.  She was a management consultant and started a management consulting firm in Indiana. She’s been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years. She’s served on the board of directors for Village Elementary Parents And Teachers Together (PATT), is a past president of Coronado Youth Softball, and is a current member of the board of directors for Coronado Little League. She married her college sweetheart, two children, a dog, and a 21-year-old cat. 

Lynette Penn is a military wife and mother of three children, whose ages are 18, 21 and 24. She moved to Coronado in 2003 as a result of the school shooting at Santana High School. She was recognized by Time Warner Cable as one of San Diego’s “50 Best Moms” in 2006. Her kids have attended Coronado schools since their move to this wonderful place. Penn was a paramedic for 15 years and worked for a law enforcement agency as well. She stopped working in 2000 when her kids started high school, and her husband started to deploy regularly. But now she says, “I just recently started working part time to fill the void of stalking my children.” She told us her latest achievement is the fact all three of her children made it to age 18 without her changing her pro-life stance. 

Jan Spear is mother to two teenage boys whose education is a high priority. She is a longtime Coronado resident, and graduated with a B.A from UC San Diego, and later earned an A.S. in nursing at Grossmont College. She was a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for children in foster care until 2005. She volunteered for the Everyone-A-Reader program at Silver Strand Elementary School. She is a health-conscious, avid runner, and has a marathon under her belt. She participates in 5 and 10k runs and encourages her kids and husband to be fit!

Suzette Valle is a 20-year resident of Coronado. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of San Diego, and has an M.A. from Oxford University, England. After a career as an investment banker, she married and moved from high finance to high drama. She’s the mother of two teenagers, one at Purdue University, another at Coronado High School. She is bilingual and bicultural. She’s held many volunteer positions among various Coronado community organizations: vice-president of Coronado Youth Softball 2007-2010, director for the Islander Sports Foundation 2008-2010, and served on both the PTO 2006 and PTA 2005. She was recognized by Time Warner Cable as one of San Diego’s “50 Best Moms” in 2006, and has been part of the judging panel for the last four years. She blogs at MamarazziKnowsBest.com, and is a featured Hollyblogger at TheWrap.com, where she blogs about parenting in a celebrity-driven society. In 2010 she appeared on the Dr. Phil Show discussing Reality TV, and was a presenter at San Diego’s Head to Toe Women’s Expo speaking about Hollywood’s far-reaching influence on children’s daily lives and family values.