Chicago School Bans Home Lunches: OK or Outrageous?

American school lunches have come under fire recently, with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act both crusading to replace the standard pizza-and-tater-tot fare with fresher, healthier, fruit- and veggie-laden options. But as cafeteria-provided lunches improve, one Chicago school has gone to the other extreme, banning brown bag lunches for everyone but kids with food allergies. The move isn't sitting well with many parents at the school -- or with many iVillage moms.

While price isn't an issue for students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, many of the school’s parents are still balking at paying $2.25 each day for lunch. “How can you require someone to spend that much money?” says iVillager Bradleyteach. “I couldn't afford $5 a day on lunches for two kids. The purpose of school is to educate my kids, not make their nutritional choices for them. I don't need them eating crap or throwing away food I was forced to pay a lot for because they do not like it.”

Others say it’s infringing on parents’ rights. “Parents should have the right to send their own lunches, even if they are not healthy -- are they going to come into your house and see what you eat for dinner, too?” says iVillager Musiclover12.

Some even worry about the logistics of the lunch line if everyone has to get through it. “The article doesn't say how big this school is, but [often] they only have about 20 to 25 minutes for a lunch period,” says Arryl. “That is not enough time for all the kids to get their lunches, and actually have time to sit down and eat it.”

And many don’t think that even a new and improved school lunch can suit everyone’s needs and nutritional values -- and mention that brown-bag lunches often are much healthier than anything served in a cafeteria. “Aside from nutrition, people have religious, cultural & philosophical preferences about food,” says Dewhiz. “This seems like a violation of rights.”

“The lunches they serve at my kids' schools are so awful -- chicken nuggets, gross pizza, mozarella sticks,” adds Ashmama. “My daughter is a total foodie and packs herself a gourmet lunch every day. If the school forced her to buy their garbage, she just wouldn't eat.”

What do you think? Are brown bag lunches a parent's right?

Check out Kelly Wallace's take in this week's iVillage 5!

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