Which is Healthier for Children?
Parents in some areas of the country were surprised to learn of a new regulation when their children returned to school last year. Rather than being given the option to send their children to school with a lunch prepared at home, they were informed all children would be eating lunches prepared at school. For some, this decision has raised concerns.
What has caused some school districts to require families purchase school lunches? And is the lunch provided at the school really that much better? Below are some ideas to consider, both for and against allowing children to bring lunches from home.
Pros for bringing a lunch from home
Some children have food allergies. It is unlikely that schools have the resources to arrange separate meals for all different types of food allergies. By allowing the parent to send a lunch from home, the child is ensured it will have foods which are safe for their particular dietary needs.
Parents have more control over how much money they spend. School lunches can be expensive. Not all families will qualify for free or reduced lunches. By allowing parents to prepare and send lunches from home, they are able to pack a lunch that fits within their family’s budget.
Some children are picky eaters. Schools prepare the same meals for all students and have very little variety. It won’t matter that little Joey doesn’t eat pizza, if that is what is served for lunch that day, he will either eat it or go hungry. By allowing parents to send lunches from home, they can be confident their child will eat something rather than go hungry.
Many school districts provide meals that are too high in fat, salt or sugar. By allowing parents to send lunches from home, the parent is able to control the foods their child eats and can ensure the choices are healthy.
Cons for bring a lunch from home
School lunches are planned by a registered dietitian to meet the children’s dietary needs. Many schools are concerned the child won’t bring healthy food to eat and want to ensure the children get at least one healthy meal each day.
Parents don’t always have the time to prepare a healthy lunch so the child ends up fixing it. This could lead to a child putting only non-healthy items into their lunchbox.
Most lunches children bring from home are cold rather than the hot lunches provided by the school.
Parents in school districts which forbid or limit bringing lunches from home often feel the government is trying to control things too much. While there may be some merit to requiring school lunches, the parent ultimately wants to be able to decide whether a sandwich from home is better than the hot lunch from school which their child won’t eat.
Healthy meal planners (I would think) would prefer their kids bring a lunch from home.