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West Side Elementary School Forbids Lunches from Home

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 12, 2011 1:30PM

Lunch Trays are being returned covered with uneaten fruits and veggies. Photo by RUNFAR.
The campaign for healthier school lunches at Chicago Public Schools has taken a "my way or the highway" position at one West Side elementary school. The Tribune reported yesterday of the policy at Little Village Academy that doesn't allow students to bring their own lunches or specific snacks, in an effort to get students to eat healthier.

Principal Elsa Carmona said she implemented the policy after seeing students come to school with sodas and processed snacks in their lunches. Unless they have a medical condition like an allergy, students either have to eat the meals served at Little Village Academy or go hungry. Some parents aren't enamored of Carmona's six-year-old policy, which also has a direct benefit to the school district and its food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the school district a set price for every free or reduced meal served; Chartwells-Thompson gets a cut of that.

Reporters Monica Eng and Joel Hood reported that dozens of meals went straight from the kitchen to the trash. Given Eng's own assessment of what passes for healthy fare at some public schools, that may be a good thing. We can also empathize with parents who feel as though Carmona's policy second guesses how they raise their children. Maybe a policy more in line with the charter Namaste Charter School at 37th and Paulina, which also focuses on healthy eating and activity, but through education instead of by mandate. If Carmona worked with Little Village Academy's parents in concert to change the culture of how their students eat, it's a lot better than being told what to eat, and what not.