Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

School Lunches


  1. Advertising in Schools
  2. BMI Reporting
  3. Class Parties
  4. Communities
  5. Food Rewards
  6. Fundraising
  7. Physical Education
  8. School Lunches
  9. Wellness Policies

8. School Lunches

Even though schools are not providing this food, how do you deal with the fact that children bring lunches in that might (and often) include some junk food?

Schools can provide education and encouragement – via newsletters, websites, and parents’ night – to parents to send healthy lunches and snacks. Some schools have actually initiated policies about what foods can and cannot be brought into the school. There is often outcry at the initiation of such policies. However, we seem to forget that we institute regulations all the time to protect our children, even in school. For example, most schools have some kind of dress code, such that children must be reasonably covered while at school. Regulations about food are not much different.

Doesn’t it make sense to offer children a range of food choices in order to teach them how to make good eating decisions?

Actually, children are able to make good choices when they are presented with a range of healthy options. They are not able to make good choices when presented with both healthy and unhealthy options, because the deck is overwhelmingly loaded (via marketing, flavor, and the biology of appetite) in favor of the unhealthy option. We recommend offering, for example, the choice between an apple and a low-fat yogurt. We don’t recommend offering an apple or a brownie.

See section on Food Rules within Home Environment.

Restricting food access is unrealistic in the real world, so isn’t it better that kids learn good eating habits while in school?

Actually, it is only in very recent history that food access is not restricted in the “real world”; prior to the last decade or so, it was NOT the case that one could obtain food 24-7. The current environment, in which all food is available all the time, is an unhealthy one. There is no evidence that practicing to be in this environment produces skill at navigating it. Thus, we advocate modifying the environment whenever possible. Schools in particular should be a “safe zone”, free from unhealthy influences.

See section on Food Rules within Home Environment.