School lunches have probably been fraught with anxiety since the first caveman academy opened its doors. As firm believers in school choice, we at Reason we support maximum choice not only in where (read: if) kids go to school but in what kids are allowed to eat and drink at whatever school they attend (even home schools!). Being a kid is awful enough without having to bow and scrape to the dictates of the First Lady or Jamie Oliver or whatever Lord Commissioner McFussbudget happens to be acting as chef de cuisine for the nation's K-12 gulag system at a given moment.
Abby W. Schachter highlights the latest skirmish in what she aptly calls "The Great School Lunch War." Schacter notes that a recent issue of JAMA Pediatrics declares a soft war on mom's home cooking when it leaves the hearth and pass through the metal detector at the local elementary school:
According to researchers Michelle Caruso and Karen Cullen, since home-packed lunches do not conform to rigorous government standards, they aren't as healthful as the food from the school cafeteria. Lunches from home tend to have more salt and sugar and fewer vegetables and whole grains, they argue.
Of course, the authors accept the premise that a low-fat, lower-sodium diet is the only way to eat well and they have no idea whether students
might consume more vegetables at other meals besides lunch. But no matter, now there is evidence in a respected journal that argues against parental involvement in their kids' food. Let the state-run schools take care of it, the study authors seem to be suggesting, because there is just no way to force parents to abide by government standards. And in fact there are several schools that have done just that by banning food from home.
If the primary purpose of public school was to guarantee the health and nutrition of students, then the only problem with the national school lunch program would be the debatable science behind the dietary assumptions. It is simply not true that controlling for sodium and fat will ensure perfect nutrition for every person. The human body is too complex and our nutrition too interconnected with our emotional, psychological and genetic make-up to know for certain the causal link between what we consume and our overall health.
Read more Reason on school lunches here.
Related: Watch "The Case of Jamie Oliver" and his "food revolution" that failed: