Arizona School Bans Processed Foods

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If you are a student at the Children’s Success Academy in Tucson, Ariz., the answer is no, you cannot have fries with that. In fact, you can’t eat much of anything.

According to The Arizona Republic, the Children’s Success Academy currently prohibits students from bringing in any and all “processed foods” for lunch. “Among the ‘no’ foods: flavored yogurt, canned fruit, American cheese, processed meats, white bread, peanut butter made with sugar, and virtually all packaged crackers except Triscuits, because they are baked with whole grain,” the Republic reports.

When they’re not eating Triscuits, the typical packed lunch includes fruit (apples, sliced peaches), peanut butter and whole-wheat noodles. Teachers and administrators rationalize the strict policy with claims that a better diet will make kids healthier and power them through the day. But some parents apparently consider these rules to be “drastic,” and not surprisingly, students aren’t too happy.

From the Republic: "’It has to say 100 percent juice. If it just says natural, that's not allowed,’ 8-year-old third-grader Jacob Price says as he bites into an apple. ‘I wish we could bring more kinds of food. I like Oreos.’”

The school’s decision comes in the middle of a larger movement, heralded by Michelle Obama and others, to make our nation’s children healthier by making school cafeteria meals more nutritious. Legislators are currently considering a bill that would boost funding for school lunch programs to facilitate these changes.

Yet, most schools are still moving in baby steps. For example, one school in Philadelphia plans to eliminate pizza from the menu in the next year. So, the question is whether this school in Tucson is making children’s lives better or just turning the cafeteria into a strange kind of detention center where kids are overly protected and restricted.

As Frank James wrote on NPR, it may be better to moderate the bad foods kids eat rather than ban them outright. “There's probably something to be said for teaching children how to navigate through a world of bad food choices. For instance, maybe an occasional order of fast-food French fries isn't the problem but a regular diet of them,” he wrote.

I would also add that it’s important to teach kids to make healthier choices, but plans like this one prevent that possibility all together by banning junk foods (and not so junky foods like flavored yogurt) outright.

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