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JBailey

Chicago School Bans Brown Bag Lunches from Home

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An article in the Chicago Tribune indicates a school in Chicago is banning students from bringing lunches from home. Sounds like a 'Waters' approach to controlling choice.


Edited by JBailey (log)

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This is amazingly ridiculous - especially because I doubt I have the same view as them about what constitutes healthful eating.

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After seeing what they were feeding my child at school, we have gone to sending her lunch with her. Basically, she was surviving on chicken fingers\steak fingers\some other fried meat every day. The schools seem incapable of cooking vegetables in a way that children will eat them and there's no way they're going to eat horrible vegetables without a parent to make them.

I'll be surprised if by the time I'm an octogenarian we're still allowed to come up with our own menus at home. Some bureaucrat will probably decide what tasteless lump of mushy mess we're allowed to eat each day (for our own good).

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Then their food better be free and not suck and be what my kid would want to eat.

Its tempting to rant about government intrusion on family responsibilities/rights etc, but this isn't even government in the elected sense. Its just some bureaucrat overstepping his/her job description. Probably one who wasn't trained for the job they are in and one who gets little supervision or guidance.

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At the end of the day, I'd rather the kids eat a sandwich, some chips, and a piece of fruit or a pudding than for them to get a plate of food that they don't eat any of (or only eat the meat).

You can't get nutrition from something you refuse to ingest.

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I currently work as Exec Chef & Food Service Director for a school district so my view may be a tad biased..

Forcing students not to bring lunch from home is not the way to go but for every parent that complains about policies of this kind, there are two or three students that show up with a brown bag of cheetos and soda. I would venture to guess that a lot of those parents are not the kind that read about food here or on the NYT columns.

The students in my district are offered Whole Wheat pasta with meat sauce or Alfredo made from scratch, fresh fruits and vegetables and chili made from scratch (using real ground beef) and many other choices. And to all those who say "I can certainly feed my child better food for what you charge me", my answer is "not really".

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. . . . And to all those who say "I can certainly feed my child better food for what you charge me", my answer is "not really".

If you allow for the difference between wholesale and retail costs, I have doubts as to the accuracy of this. Whether or not parents will is another story

I'm just wondering whether requiring kids to eat school food is entirely legal.

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haha, if our school would have the nerve to tell me what my kids are going to eat (and charge me for it) I'd just set up a bbq and/or my wok burner in the parking lot and cook things right there!

My boy loves nothing more than a thermos with heated up left overs from the night before, or a nice sandwich, whereas the school sells the usual crap. There's no real full kitchen on site as far as I know. It's enough that they forbid peanut butter! Sorry to those kids and parents of kids with allergies, but that's really not my problem, and to ban something to all 500+ students to protect a small handful of kids is already overstepping things IMO. Not a big deal since my kids aren't really into peanut butter, but if they were, that's what they'd get. Sue me, LOL.

The kids with allergies know quite well not to share a PB&J sandwich, and if they are extremely allergic to something the school is aware as well and can provide an allergen free food only table for those kids. And I'm sure their friends would be happy to sit there with them and eat something else because they're friends and the parents know of the allergy and know each other. Or so one would hope.

Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

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. . . . And to all those who say "I can certainly feed my child better food for what you charge me", my answer is "not really".

If you allow for the difference between wholesale and retail costs, I have doubts as to the accuracy of this. Whether or not parents will is another story

I'm just wondering whether requiring kids to eat school food is entirely legal.

It's not only an issue of food cost but also overhead in the form of labor (meal prep, clean up of dishes and dining room, clean up of equipment, etc), utility costs and equipment usage/replacement. Just like at home, the food needs to be made and dishes need to be washed so people are "paying" for the convenience and my ovens and dishwashing machines need to get fixed and replaced just like everybody else. When it comes down to it, a lot of FS operations run in the red and those of us who make a "profit", only get pennies for each meal.

The principals are not requiring the kids to eat school food; they're just not allowing them to bring food from home, which I certainly don't agree with.

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Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district's food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

It's not about government intrusion, it's about money. A little kick back isn't really out of the ordinary for Chicago.

Given that the administrators don't seem to be too bugged about the fact that kids don't actually eat the food would seem to be a red flag here. In fact, there doesn't seem to be much description of the actual food being argued over. Also, the guy sticking up for "parental rights" is a shill for the processed food industry. So it's about who gets to fleece the parents, not whether the food is any good. Sure, a lot of kids probably bring bad lunches, why not help parents out with a little guidance?

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The kids with allergies know quite well not to share a PB&J sandwich, and if they are extremely allergic to something the school is aware as well and can provide an allergen free food only table for those kids. And I'm sure their friends would be happy to sit there with them and eat something else because they're friends and the parents know of the allergy and know each other. Or so one would hope.

I've personally seen cases where the allergy is so severe that it affects kids that are in the same room as someone who ate a PB&J some hours before and either forgot to wash their hands or brush their teeth afterwards. A lot of schools are using a "Peanut Aware" policy, meaning that FS doesn't purchase nuts or nut butters but are not promising a "Peanut Free" enviroment.

Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

I see this ALL the time. Their day starts with "My bus ride to get to school is 45 mins long and I wake up at 6am to get to school so I just eat some poptarts for breakfast" and then moves to a brown bag of chips, cold sandwhich and "fruit" juice.

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Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

I see this ALL the time. Their day starts with "My bus ride to get to school is 45 mins long and I wake up at 6am to get to school so I just eat some poptarts for breakfast" and then moves to a brown bag of chips, cold sandwhich and "fruit" juice.

I'll bet J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, thinks that's a valid parental choice.

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This brown-bag prohibition isn't exactly a new thing...my Louisiana public elementary school required a doctor's note if you wanted to brown-bag it. Middle school required you to choose: either you were brown-bagging it all year or you were a cafeteria diner; no switching. Schools can require a uniform, a particular bookbag (clear or mesh for security purposes), and a particular kind of gym clothes--what makes lunches any different? As long as the cafeteria offers a few choices (salad bar, vegetarian stuff, sandwiches vs. hot lunches), I can't see how forced participation is a bad thing. You don't get to opt out of gym class, art or recess, do you?

Then again, my public school made fresh yeast rolls nearly every day, and gumbo, lasagna, & red beans/rice were popular entrees. So why would you want a cold turkey sandwich from home if you could have fresh bread & butter? (See Donald Link's Real Cajun cookbook for the LA Public Schools yeast roll recipe.) In high school, we'd show up early just to eat breakfast: raisin buns & pork sausage patties, mmm-hmmm.

ETA: chips/cheetos and a Coke damn sure IS a valid parental choice. You don't know what that kid had for breakfast or what he/she is having for dinner. So let's not demonize 450 calories of the kiddo's day. Just because it's not YOUR choice doesn't make it a morally bankrupt choice. Please. In many places in the world, that 450 calories would constitute a generous lunch...and in other places, the entire midday meal is optional.


Edited by HungryC (log)

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The kids with allergies know quite well not to share a PB&J sandwich, and if they are extremely allergic to something the school is aware as well and can provide an allergen free food only table for those kids. And I'm sure their friends would be happy to sit there with them and eat something else because they're friends and the parents know of the allergy and know each other. Or so one would hope.

I've personally seen cases where the allergy is so severe that it affects kids that are in the same room as someone who ate a PB&J some hours before and either forgot to wash their hands or brush their teeth afterwards. A lot of schools are using a "Peanut Aware" policy, meaning that FS doesn't purchase nuts or nut butters but are not promising a "Peanut Free" enviroment.

Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

I see this ALL the time. Their day starts with "My bus ride to get to school is 45 mins long and I wake up at 6am to get to school so I just eat some poptarts for breakfast" and then moves to a brown bag of chips, cold sandwhich and "fruit" juice.

My child isn't really a problem because she likes raw carrots, raw brocolli, homemade granola and fruit but there are lots of kids who don't. Schools can't sit down and make the kids eat everything like parents can when the kids are at home. Even junk food is more nutritious than no food at all.

If the parents know that their kid is just going to throw away the plate full of peas, beans, carrots etc... that the school is serving, then the kid is better off having a sandwich and cheetos than nothing at all.

For those of you who think they can judge what is and what is not a "valid parental choice" are part of the problem. Perhaps you should worry about your own life and your own children. I doubt seriously you'd care much for me demanding that the government decide what your children could read or see on television (I would never do this). That is something for you to decide.


Edited by BadRabbit (log)

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This school district is ridiculous. No one is going to tell me my kid has to buy a school lunch. I'd take my chances and send my child to school with his lunch and instruct him to call me when someone tries to "confiscate" it. It is no one's business but mine and my kid's if I want to pack him a brown bagful of candy bars everyday.

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For those of you who think they can judge what is and what is not a "valid parental choice" are part of the problem.

I'm okay with saying parents should be the ones to decide what their kids get to eat. Does this mean that I have to say that all choices are equally good for the kid? No, I'm not going to say that. I don't claim to have the right to impose my view, but I still claim the right to express it. I also find it hard to believe that most parents don't care what their kids eat. Maybe a bag of cheetos is more than some kid get to eat, but that doesn't make it a good lunch; "it's better than nothing" is a pretty sh*tty standard to operate on. If parents are sending their kids to school with cheetos because they don't have the time or money or skills to do otherwise, then maybe we need to address that.


Edited by Moopheus (log)

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Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

I see this ALL the time. Their day starts with "My bus ride to get to school is 45 mins long and I wake up at 6am to get to school so I just eat some poptarts for breakfast" and then moves to a brown bag of chips, cold sandwhich and "fruit" juice.

At one school I worked at there was a kid who came in with a huge lunch bag that had a soda, a couple different kind of cookies, some M&Ms, all rounded off with a variety of chip snacks. The mother saw me looking at this "food" one day and explained that the kid was a picky eater and that she had given up on fighting with him over food choices. It was absolutely appalling -- this family would have benefited from the policy.

On the other hand, if the school had told ME I couldn't send a bag lunch with MY kid, I would have gone ballistic.

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Then again, my public school made fresh yeast rolls nearly every day, and gumbo, lasagna, & red beans/rice were popular entrees. So why would you want a cold turkey sandwich from home if you could have fresh bread & butter? (See Donald Link's Real Cajun cookbook for the LA Public Schools yeast roll recipe.) In high school, we'd show up early just to eat breakfast: raisin buns & pork sausage patties, mmm-hmmm.

Nice. If my kid's elementary school served that food I'll have him buy it everyday. Now, his school cafeteria serves two types of food: crap and slightly-above-crap. For example, Mozzarella sticks are actually a lunchtime regular meal. That falls under the "crap" heading. I have no clue what that huge Hobart mixer is there for in the cafeteria kitchen and no idea what the surly lunch ladies actually do other than plop "food" in plates. Oh, you should see their disgusting "Burrito" that comes out of a microwaved packet.

So, 90% of the time we pack a good lunch for him and he loves it. Everyone is happy with that arrangement. Now, if they are going to mandate I buy lunch for him everyday then you bet I will have a huge issue with it and will make as much noise as possible. The Chicago school is not doing anything to help feed the kids better. All they are really doing is providing kickbacks for whoever they source their junk from. Plain and simple.

The fact that lots of parents make very poor choices when it comes into their chidlren's nutrition (McD's every day for breakfast comes to mind) is sad, but really has nothing to do with this particular ban on brown bag lunches.

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This brown-bag prohibition isn't exactly a new thing...my Louisiana public elementary school required a doctor's note if you wanted to brown-bag it. Middle school required you to choose: either you were brown-bagging it all year or you were a cafeteria diner; no switching. Schools can require a uniform, a particular bookbag (clear or mesh for security purposes), and a particular kind of gym clothes--what makes lunches any different? As long as the cafeteria offers a few choices (salad bar, vegetarian stuff, sandwiches vs. hot lunches), I can't see how forced participation is a bad thing. You don't get to opt out of gym class, art or recess, do you?

Then again, my public school made fresh yeast rolls nearly every day, and gumbo, lasagna, & red beans/rice were popular entrees. So why would you want a cold turkey sandwich from home if you could have fresh bread & butter? (See Donald Link's Real Cajun cookbook for the LA Public Schools yeast roll recipe.) In high school, we'd show up early just to eat breakfast: raisin buns & pork sausage patties, mmm-hmmm.

ETA: chips/cheetos and a Coke damn sure IS a valid parental choice. You don't know what that kid had for breakfast or what he/she is having for dinner. So let's not demonize 450 calories of the kiddo's day. Just because it's not YOUR choice doesn't make it a morally bankrupt choice. Please. In many places in the world, that 450 calories would constitute a generous lunch...and in other places, the entire midday meal is optional.

I don't meant to pick on HungryC, but you brought up two interesting points that I wanted to touch on.

I find this entire topic very interesting, although I'm a little ambivalent about it. I too think this policy is a rather terrible one, but I'm not too quick to agree with the argument that "parental choice" should not be questioned.

What particularly bothers me about the idea that parents should get to feed their kids whatever they want to, is that the idea that "it doesn't affect anyone else" seems to go hand-in-hand. Let's be clear, the notion that you should be able to do whatever you want, because [you think] it doesn't affect anyone else, is flat out selfish. That's not necessarily a bad thing: I would never fault anyone for buying free-range organic eggs over grocery store eggs, rather than giving the extra money to a charity that feeds starving third-world towns, but I think it is important to acknowledge when a behavior is just plain selfish. As a new parent, I know that I will have to make choices like these, and I can guarantee you that I will make selfish choices, and probably lots of them.

But here is the real problem with the idea that feeding your kids crap (cheetos and soda) every day for lunch does NOT affect me. Well it probably does not affect ME, but it probably WILL affect my kid. Think about this for a moment, particularly the USAers in here. Why do your health insurance premiums go up? Health care is getting more expensive, but not [just] because individual treatments are more expensive. Health care in the USA is getting more expensive because 1) we are living for longer periods of time, 2) we are dealing with more chronic illness, and 3) we are living lifestyles that facilitate the development of chronic illnesses (i.e. obesity and diabetes). We do NOT live in a world where our actions only affect us. So when you feed your kids crap, you are teaching them that eating crap is normal. TO BE CLEAR, I am NOT judging anyone: I eat McDonalds on occasion (quintessential "Crap"). Like I said about selfish behavior, I think it is important to acknowledge something for what it is.

With regards to the idea that "450 calories is a good meal in some parts of the world"...comparing your actions against the lowest common denominator is not necessarily a good practice. Yes, there are millions of people in the world who would tear through land fills just to find the cheeto crumbs that you didn't eat, but that doesn't mean eating cheetos is a "good" option. Again, not judging, just trying to be reasonable.

Peace and good eating to everyone! :biggrin:

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Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

I see this ALL the time. Their day starts with "My bus ride to get to school is 45 mins long and I wake up at 6am to get to school so I just eat some poptarts for breakfast" and then moves to a brown bag of chips, cold sandwhich and "fruit" juice.

At one school I worked at there was a kid who came in with a huge lunch bag that had a soda, a couple different kind of cookies, some M&Ms, all rounded off with a variety of chip snacks. The mother saw me looking at this "food" one day and explained that the kid was a picky eater and that she had given up on fighting with him over food choices. It was absolutely appalling -- this family would have benefited from the policy.

On the other hand, if the school had told ME I couldn't send a bag lunch with MY kid, I would have gone ballistic.

How would the kid have benefitted? He wouldn't have eaten anything at school almost guaranteed.

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. . . . And to all those who say "I can certainly feed my child better food for what you charge me", my answer is "not really".

If you allow for the difference between wholesale and retail costs, I have doubts as to the accuracy of this. Whether or not parents will is another story

I'm just wondering whether requiring kids to eat school food is entirely legal.

No, not allowing for that difference. That is the cost of the food. Meet the challenge, or dont.

I provide my kid a nutritious lunch, usually for less than the $2 cost of a school lunch, but its not "better" food. Its probably equally nutritious and I can certainly tailor it to her particular tastes, but I dont pretend I can pack a hot lunch that stays hot and safe between house and lunchtime, nor do I provide the day to day variety the school does.

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Of course, parents that send in a bag of cheetos and a soda should probably have to talk to social services and get their head examined, see if something's in there. That's just outrageous.

I see this ALL the time. Their day starts with "My bus ride to get to school is 45 mins long and I wake up at 6am to get to school so I just eat some poptarts for breakfast" and then moves to a brown bag of chips, cold sandwhich and "fruit" juice.

At one school I worked at there was a kid who came in with a huge lunch bag that had a soda, a couple different kind of cookies, some M&Ms, all rounded off with a variety of chip snacks. The mother saw me looking at this "food" one day and explained that the kid was a picky eater and that she had given up on fighting with him over food choices. It was absolutely appalling -- this family would have benefited from the policy.

On the other hand, if the school had told ME I couldn't send a bag lunch with MY kid, I would have gone ballistic.

How would the kid have benefitted? He wouldn't have eaten anything at school almost guaranteed.

A great deal of districts realize this and are starting to move towards creating menus that deal with this nutritional "void". I create menus based on healthier items (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole grains, etc) while marketing the program to students, parents and the community as a whole. I go into classrooms and talk about the importance of a "good" breakfast and introduce the students to different vegetables, grains and fruits while showcasing "ethnic" dishes. I keep a very tight rein on my food and labor costs while looking for grants to help me offset my losses. I spend time clipping fresh herbs from the greenhouse in one of the schools. It helps that I worked in the restaurant business for many years and that I have 2 school-age children that test out my recipes and serve as a constant reminder of why I do what I do.

A while back, someone mentioned a news special on school lunch in France and how "nutritious and healthy" their food was. They somehow skimmed over the fact that school lunch there runs at around $6 per student while we charge $2.10 for a lunch of milk, fresh fruits and vegetables and a choice of entree. I don't even know what I would do if I could get that much per plate.. Hand-made pasta, increase the amount of local produce and meats, fully train each and every one of my employees so they can become "defenders" of the program..

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Why is a McD's breakfast being described as devoid of nutrition?

Egg, meat, grain-based starch, possibly cheese and potato.

Its high in fat and therefore calories, but not devoid of nutritional value.

Its probably no higher in fat than the much beloved egg-in-a-nest of many pages of eg discussion.

I know kids who skip all the food at school - they dont learn well, especially in the afternoon classes.

Me? I had the other problem. I loved school lunches and always cleaned my plate. That put in about 2x the calories I needed.

Finally, if my kid meets some criteria of which the rest of the world is unaware, and as a reward gets a bag of junk for lunch? Tough on you.

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A bag of Cheetos might feed some village somewhere, but that's not the issue here, nor do I care in this case. The school serves Pizza, chicken fingers, burritos with who knows what in them, and similar garbage (or college food if you will). Of course my 7 year old would love that junk! He'd be happy with a bowl of chips and a can of root beer, maybe a candy as dessert. But it's a no go for me, no matter how cheap. I'm lucky to live in a relatively wealthy town and in a great school district, but the food they offer is terrible. Yes, there are fruits and salads, but show me a 7 year old that would pick that over some fried food or a pizza. Certainly not mine, despite of what he knows about food. Heck, I used to eat a bag of gummy bears for lunch in college at times.

If the school would manage to offer some good quality and tasty AND kid friendly food, I'd be more than happy to pay 2.50 or even $6, as I think it would be a good experience for the kids to walk to a counter and select among some tasty and healthy things, but that's just not the case here, and I can't imagine it's the case in less affluent areas of the country. (Note: I'm not among the rich here, not by a far shot).

While I agree that it's certainly not my business if some parent wants to "feed" their kids on junk food and snickers, the idea to forbid me to make a nice lunch for my kids is simply not flying with me. While the bbq on the parking lot was a joke, I would see that I am there at lunch time each day and my boy comes out for a picknick, I would NOT allow him or myself to be locked into the junk they serve there. Sure, the kids would be delighted if Ronald McDonald would be catering (hey, there's even some crap from China in the bag!) but it's not right and for a school to impose on the parents what the kids eat is outrageous. And certainly not comparable to school uniforms, clear don't-bring-your-gun-to-school book bags or any other behavioral restrictions a school imposes.

And yes, allergies can be severe, one of my boys friends is so allergic to peanuts that I don't invite him over, since I have no clue where my 3 year old might have dropped some peanut. And the parents know this and are perfectly fine with it. But that a whole school can't have peanut because of one or two kids is still overkill IMO. They don't rip out certain blooming trees some other kid might be allergic to either. Luckily my kids are not allergic to anything so far, and I totally understand the concerns of parents that have to deal with this, and the lunch room is a crazy turbulence of wild cats feeding, but there are many schools that deal with these things in smart ways, supervising those children with known allergies, offering "allergen free" tables where they sit with their friends. I'm just allergic to being told what to do in every instance of my family's life.

Of course the constant budget cuts schools have rained down on them probably make stupid things like this a necessity, sad as it is.

As for the mom that gave up "her fight" - sorry, but that's the wrong approach. What's next, a Porsche for the 16th birthday? It's not a fight, it's setting family rules that make sense. Eat it or have an apple or banana, but we won't have chips for lunch or dinner. Well, we sometimes have chips, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, just my take on this silly thing, nobody has to agree, aside of my kids, :cool:

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...for a school to impose on the parents what the kids eat is outrageous...

OliverB and everyone else who objects to this question, would you be opposed to this school-provided-lunch mandate if the food was actually healthy? Most schools serve relatively horrible food (poor nutritional value, poor taste, etc.), which always comes up in the objection, but which if they served good food?

I don't think I would be opposed to such a rule, if the menu was something I, or maybe Jamie Oliver, would approve of.

What do you think? Do you object to the rule for the sake of the rule, or because the rule results in kids eating crappy food?

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