Back when I was young and full of energy I worked for a couple of agencies that worked with the developmentally disabled. I worked in group home and assisted living facilities. It was a job that I liked, though I knew that I wasn’t destined to do it forever, and it was a job that pulled on my heart strings and helped me grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise found. I learned a lot about the human equation during those years.

One of the daily chores that I would help the folks1 complete was the assembly of their lunches for the next day. These folks, regardless of their age, brown bagged it to the various day treatment or workshop programs they attended during “business hours”. Each of the folks was responsible for making his or her own lunch and as a residence counselor or manager I assisted with the process. My assistance was dependent on the skill set of the individual. Some folks needed help manipulating a knife to spread mustard, others needed to be shown the difference between ham glaze and strawberry jam and yet others had no concept of lunch at all and just knew that whatever came out of the brown bag made them happy. Others could assemble the lunch on their own, they just needed some guidance as to what would be healthy and what probably wouldn’t be a good choice. After a year of addressing and guiding healthy choices with one particular woman, she found a great deal of pride in gaining the skill to assemble a healthy lunch on her own, based on what she had been taught.

A Chicago Area School has banned students from bringing in lunches from home. The students must eat what is served from the cafeteria or else go hungry. Principal Elsa Carmona said that the food coming from home wasn’t nutritious enough so she banned brown bagging it.

So, if a mother wants to make a homemade meal for her child, she can’t. Her kid must eat the processed crap that school cafeterias serve these days. I have been behind the scenes in a school cafeteria. Pork comes in tubes with so much fat that you can pour the pork out of the tube. Hot dogs are a routine staple, French fries are a necessity and there’s always plenty of cookies around.

Not exactly a healthy offering, is it Elsa?

When I first read this article this morning I was became angry, because here we have another example of someone sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong and trying to dictate to others how they should live their life. I’m sorry but the school is not there to be a nanny or to babysit. A school is there to educate, and they are completely missing the mark because they are taking away the responsibility of the parent to teach their kid how to make healthy meal choices. I don’t understand why there isn’t more outrage about this.

There is a cynical side of me that thinks that this has to do with government reimbursements for the cafeteria — a sure way to help the school budget. But I won’t go down that road because it could just be me being cynical. However, I won’t buy one word of the principal’s claims that she is trying to help the students eat healthier until:

  • anything that can be found in a Happy Meal or at a hot dog stand is left off the menu
  • all microwaves are removed from the kitchen
  • all items containing high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or artificial sweeteners is removed from the premises.
  • I have written Ms. Carmona an email expressing my feelings on the subject, after trying to call her but finding all circuits busy (I guess she’s popular today). I’m interested in seeing her response.

    1 The people I worked with at the homes were just folks. We didn’t call them residents. Chautauqua County had a habit of calling them “the guys”, regardless of sex and Oneida County called then “the folks”. I liked “folks” a lot.