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Chicago ban on homemade school lunches packs much more than sandwiches

April 15, 2011 | 11:12 am

Maybe it's a Chicago thing, persons in positions of authority believing they know better what's best for others.

No, we're not talking about President Obama, who happens to be in Chicago today to bag up $17 million in takings from his three reelection campaign fundraisers last night.Button Obama eats a Hot Dog in front of Michelle

We're talking this time about a school principal on the West Side there who has banned homemade lunches at Little Village Academy.

No more brown bags or lunchpails filled with a handmade meal from home because Principal Elsa Carmona thinks the nutrition in her school's cafeteria is better than the parental stuff.

"It is better for the children to eat at the school," she announced to our Chicago Tribune colleagues.

Here's the deal: Many Americans feel they've endured the first 815 days of the Obama administration's drive to spend more, borrow more and regulate more.

They notice the oncoming federal requirement to purchase healthcare insurance. They see the president sign the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act last December, giving the feds increased power over the content of local school lunches and vending machines.

And they seem to be growing a tad touchy about being told what to do in....

... areas that once seemed personal -- like what parents have chosen to feed their youngsters for generations.

Some parents surely are inattentive, the large mom and dad waddling out of the fast-food restaurant followed by their young waddler. But millions of other adults have the crazy notion that they know what's best for the children they brought into this world, not some biddy charging $2.25 a pop unless the kid can produce a doctor's excuse. Someone might call them "Mama Grizzlies."

The school lunch ban story, initially considered a minor local feature, exploded nationally into denunciations, yes, of the principal, but also of what many see as the spreading nanny state, no matter how well-meaning the intent.Button Obama packs away Pancake

First, some would note that the school district and cafeteria receive varying federal payments based on number of lunches served. Hmmm. Chicago. Hmmm.

First Lady Michelle Obama has encountered growing opposition (and a surprising amount of personal criticism) for her self-appointed crusade against childhood obesity and for healthier eating habits.

Part of that resistance stems from the apparent hypocrisy of the wife of a pie-eating, recovering smoker preaching healthy habits to others.

No one can blame the Childhood Obesity lobby, the Lard Food-Frying Council or the Saturated Fat Supporters of America. Most everyone knows how to eat healthier. Many often do.

But Americans are not accustomed to being told to do that, especially by government folks in Washington whose overall life habits are about as far from role models as you can get and still be in North America.

This Chicago story is no doubt a passing storm, explained in more detail here. The societal eating changes will likely come on a generational scale with Sasha and Malia Obama feeding their kids arugula snacks or the like. Much the way as children, today's seniors unthinkingly endured ubiquitous cigarette smoke virtually everywhere, including (despite the rules) the school bathrooms. But today, the minority of tobacco puffers is ostracized.

What will be interesting to see in coming months is if this resistance to a sense of being herded by government turns into any kind of significant political energy a la the tea party -- and which Chicago pol, if any, pays the price.

Besides, if every kid in the cafeteria has the same food on their tray, how are they going to learn the intricacies of bartering?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Andrew Malcolm