Parenting

Back to school: How do you handle the Lunch Police?

With many school boards kicking off the new year today, parents are sounding off about the lunch and snack rules at their schools.

Photo: omgimages, iStockphoto

The conversation started with one new-to-school mom’s puzzled question to the Twitterverse: “No juice allowed at school :S So it’s water or I buy milk. I don’t get that.”

Other parents chimed in with the rules at their respective schools, including litterless lunches, and few or no packaged snacks.

Then the outrage poured in, with one mom sputtering, “It’s none of their damn business! Jeez! Want to follow me home too?”

By now, most parents accept that no-peanuts and no-sesame rules are put in place to protect kids with severe allergies — although some moms and dads of picky eaters have expressed understandable frustration how few packable lunch foods their kids will accept. With favourites like peanut butter off the table, some kids will only eat bread and jam all day long.

So the message that a busy parent can’t throw a nut-free granola bar into her kid’s lunch, because it’s a packaged snack, is rubbing a few people the wrong way.

I’m guessing here, but it’s likely some of these lunchbox rules are meant to encourage healthier eating during school hours — given that Canada is the only G8 country without a nationwide school meal program at the same time as we are learning more about how poor nutrition affects kids’ school performance.

“I know that the biggest difference I found after the toast cart started was that the kindergarten students no longer spent all morning asking, ‘When is it recess? I’m hungry.’ Those who were hungry were able to eat in the morning, and then were able to focus better on their work,” noted a teacher in the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association how-to guide on breakfast programs called Who’s Hungry?

In have-not communities, lack of food to fuel kids’ brains and bodies is a big problem. In more affluent areas, too many of the “wrong” foods can lead to obesity and other health issues — and so schools encourage (or order) parents to avoid sugary or highly processed treats.

“Our old school asked us to limit [packaged snacks],” tweeted a mom from Ontario. “It isn’t hard to pack fruit/veg.” Another wasn’t so cool with the concept, replying, “Bottom line? Make sugg. but don’t start policing my baby’s lunch box. I will flip.”

What’s your response to elementary schools’ lunch and snack rules? Does your school have any rules in place?