Parents who pack lunches for their children who attend Children's Success Academy in Tucson, Ariz. had better give a lot of thought to it. The public charter school doesn't allow any foods made with processed and refined ingredients. So bleached flour and refined sugar are out.
From the Arizona Republic:
TUCSON - As her second-grade students take out their lunches, teacher Leticia Moreno quickly spots two with forbidden food - a burrito and quesadilla made with white flour tortillas.
"I will get them peanut butter and honey on whole wheat," Moreno says, taking away the offending meals.
Moreno is a teacher at the Children's Success Academy, a 10-year-old school on Tucson's south side for children in kindergarten through the fifth grade. The school is unique for its food rules - it bans not only white flour, but refined sugar and anything it defines as processed food.
"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."
But Oreos will never blight the Children's Success Academy as long as school director and founder Nanci Aiken is in charge.
Aiken, a scientist who holds a doctorate in cell physiology and once worked as a cancer researcher at the Arizona Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins Medical School, is an unabashed food cop.
"I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West a lot of times, but it makes such a big difference," says Aiken, who is also president of the governing board for Tucson's El Rio Community Health Center - Arizona's oldest and largest community health center.
My first thought on reading this story was: "I sure hope they don't have any peanut allergies in that school" since that's one food allergy not to be taken lightly.
Another thought: is their scientific basis for banning all processed food? And how do you define processed food?
Actually, many foods are processed to make them safer. Milk and many juices, for instance, are pasteurized to make them safer by killing bacteria. Sushi is processed to by being frozen and thawed.
Some people might and do argue that cooking food is a form of processing it.
True, many processed foods also contain all manner of preservatives and additives that we could literally live without. Salt and high fructose corn syrups are major ingredients in many processed, packaged foods.
But in a food culture with so much processed food, it seems like quite the uphill battle to completely ban them from kids' lunches at this school.
And 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.
The story quotes a dietitian along this line:
"There are all kinds of emotional and behavioral problems that can happen if you tell a child to never, ever eat a cookie. They may do just the opposite once they are at a rebellious stage," says registered dietitian Nancy Rogers, coordinator of the Worksite Wellness Program for the University of Arizona's UA Life & Work Connections.
"Food is in such abundance here. It's not like living on an island where you are never going to see an Oreo. You want to train kids to make good choices to keep their bodies healthy."
Rogers recommends moderation. Sugar is not bad in small amounts, she notes. It's a carbohydrate that is burned for energy.
"The studies don't substantiate that additives or preservatives would cause behavioral problems in children. However, there is anecdotal evidence," Rogers says of Aiken's approach. "If the parents are wanting to try it, there's no harm in that."
Also, presumably parents are free to give their children who attend this school all manner of processed foods when they're home, and do.
It seems like trying to empty Lake Havasu with a child's beach bucket.