Death of a classic: PB&J gets the axe

Principal Elsa Carmona of Little Village Academy, a public school, implemented a policy prohibiting children from bringing snacks or lunches from home.

Sack lunch checkpoint at a public school. Credit: John Gosslee

Unless they have a medical excuse provided to the school, students must eat the cafeteria food for $2.25 per meal, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The purpose of the policy is to “protect students from their own unhealthful food choices,” Carmona said.

Many people think that this policy has recently been adopted, when in fact, the brown bag ban has in effect for six years.

“[The principal] created the policy six years ago after watching students bring ‘bottles of soda and flaming hot chips’ on field trips for their lunch,” according to the Los Angeles Times in an article.

Carmona can make this cafeteria policy but she cannot force feed students.

As a group of people were touring the school this year, young student Fernando Dominguez saw his opportunity to protest. Within minutes of the group entering the cafeteria, young Dominguez yelled, “Who thinks this lunch is good enough?”

Following was a very potent display of the disgust with the policy. The students began chanting: “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch,” according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

This is a perfect illustration of how this policy is not changing the way students look at food.

Lynchburg mom, Dana Blackwood, strongly disagrees with the brown bag ban and says that one meal is not going to change the overall eating habits of a child.

“Mothers are going to feed their children what they want,” Blackwood said. If studies show that it is working, that is if obesity of children at the school is going down, then fine, if not then let us have the choice.”

As of yet, studies have not been produced to show a decline in obesity at Little Village Academy.

If the policy is proven to work, then it would have been the top argument for Carmona when parents and the media rallied against her in recent month.

Blackwood offered an alternative way to encourage healthy eating without telling the children to eat what is offered or go hungry.

“They could have competitions like Liberty Christian Academy (LCA) does,” Blackwood said. “Right now the children are competing for who can drink water as their only beverage for the most consecutive days and the winner is presented with an award.”

LCA’s attempt at getting children healthier is both creative and effective. They have created an inviting environment while encouraging the children to make healthier decisions: water over soda.

A Richmond mom, Wendy Lafoon Hicks, raised another point against the brown bag ban.

“What option do I have for my child if he doesn’t like the lunch or if I want to provide a healthier option? How about the cost – what if I can provide a cheaper lunch option than it costs to buy at the school,” Hicks said.

Sadly, Hicks would have no option if she wanted her child to eat lunch and was a student at Little Village Academy under the food policy of Principal Elsa Carmona.

Hicks is confident that she could provide a better tasting, healthier lunch for less than the $2.25 it costs every parent at Little Village Academy. The idea of possibly having such rules imposed on her family leaves her distraught.

The students’ negative response has been so strong that many of them have chosen hunger over eating the food provided.

“Though Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad,” the Chicago Tribune said after a lunch-time visit at the school.

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