From the Dining@Large blog:
It's back-to-school time. And while the kiddos learn reading, writing and arithmetic, parents get schooled in the politics of schoolhouse eating.
With all the attention on childhood obesity these days, lots of lunchbox staples have become taboo.
I'm not one to mourn the loss of the once-ubiquitous high school Coke machine. But the case is not so clear for every out-of-favor food. And some cafeteria classics now under fire aren't going without a fight.
Which brings us to this week's list:
Top Ten controversial school foods
No. 1. Peanuts
Packing peanut butter in a lunchbox suddenly seems on par with packing a concealed weapon. Not that I take issue with peanut bans; I gladly complied with one we encountered when my son had a preschool classmate who was highly allergic. The allergy can be so deadly that schools have to take it seriously. But I wonder: why have peanut allergies have become so prevalent in the last generation? I didn't know a single kid with a peanut allergy growing up. Now, the allergy is so common that peanut-free classrooms and peanut-free cafeteria tables are practically the norm.
No. 2. Twinkies
If there were ever a time for a golden snack cake with shelf-stable "cream" filling, this is not it.
No. 3. Homemade, whole wheat oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie
I get Twinkies bans, but I was taken aback a couple years ago when my son's Montessori preschool teacher told him he wasn't supposed to have the cookie I'd put in his lunch. It was early in the year and while the school had a stated no-junk-foods policy, I never dreamed that applied to a homemade, whole-grain treat. The recipe was based on one from Alice Waters, for crying out loud! Rules are rules, so I complied. But I'd still put my cookie up against the partially hydrogenated crackers the school handed out at snack time.
No. 4. Meatless Mondays
When Baltimore City school cafeterias started going all vegetarian on Mondays last year, there was a surprising backlash. Not from kids or parents, but the meat industry. The schools were depriving children of essential protein, a meat spokeswoman fretted on national TV. No matter that the meals -- cheese lasagna, for example -- still meet the same protein requirements as traditional school lunches.
No. 5. Candy
Packing candy in lunch boxes is verboten at some schools, but objecting to candy can get parents crosswise with some teachers. A mom I know complained that her kids' public school teacher was giving out to candy every day to reward classroom work. The principal backed the teacher up, telling the mom that were certain kids they couldn't reach without candy. Wow. This National Merit Scholar is brought to you by Hershey's.
No. 6. Soda
No. 7. Flavored milk
Chocolate and strawberry milk are banned in some schools because they contain loads of sugar. But some parents still want it as a way to get calcium into their kids. As the mother of two kids on a long-running plain-milk strike, I'll confess to being part of the latter group. Still, the sugar content on those little Horizon strawberry milks makes me cringe. So does the price, which I think works out to $14 a gallon.
No. 8. Juice
Another lunch- and snack-time standard lately frowned upon for packing lots of calories.
No. 9. Birthday cupcakes
When the treats are for the whole class, look out! Some school districts have imposed bans.
No. 10. Fluffernutter on white bread
I ate it nearly every day for lunch as a schoolkid. Though I obviously survived, I am depriving my kids of that pleasure.