Inside a Lunchable - © 2024 - Sarah L. Voisin - Washington Post

Should ‘Lunchables’ Be Banned From School Lunches?

Consumer Reports says, ‘Yes!’. Definitely. And it’s all about the salt. But how do others feel about banning the popular, purpose-made kid-sized lunch combos from official menus? And will schools prohibit Lunchables brought from home?

Lunchables + Clones - © 2024 - Consumer Reports

Second question first…

The second question is much easier answered than the first. Most school boards mandate school-provided lunches for all students. Some also provide mandatory breakfasts. And almost all prohibit the kids bringing in food from home. The idea is to make sure every child gets at least one nutritious, balanced meal a day.

It’s not just a health support measure. A whole flock of learned studies has shown that kids learn better on a full stomach. A stomach filled with the right nutrients.

The main question

The main issue, as far as this post is concerned, is: “Should commercially-made products like Lunchables – even if purpose-made for lunching by kids – be allowed on school lunch menus?”

Consumer Reports (CR) offers some pretty convincing evidence to support it’s ‘ban’ stand.

The nitty gritty

CR decided to look into the product, since it as announced that two new versions of the combo would be available, specifically intended for school lunch programs this coming fall. They’re larger, servings in custom, non-retail packaging.

First off, CR found that one of the two versions – Turkey Cheddar – co0ntained 930 mg of sodium, compared to 740 mg in the store-bought version. Either way, that’s a lot of salt. In fact it’s almost the full National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended daily allowance of sodium for a 4 to 8-year old. And more than 2/3 of the daily allowance for a 9 to 13 year-old.

According to CNN, “Consumer Reports said it tested 12 store-bought versions of Lunchables and similar ready-to-eat meal kits, including from Armour LunchMakers, Good & Gather, Greenfield Natural Meat Co. and Oscar Mayer, and also found lead, cadmium, or both in all, although none of the kits exceeded any federal limit. The testing also surfaced high levels of sodium in the other lunch kits.”

Phalates – another ‘forever’ contaminant – were also detected in most of the kits.

Schools Rep Speaks Out

“Lunchables being approved for school food is a symptom of the greater problem,” said Carolyn Villa, Food Services Director for Colorado’s Boulder Valley School District, who threw away samples that Kraft Heinz sent her over the summer.

“Any […] regulations that are implemented to try to improve health and lifetime-wellness outcomes for children are manipulated and bent to afford profitability for large food manufacturers.”

Not only that, but…

All the individual food items in a ‘lunchables’ style meal kit are either heavily processed of ultra-processed. That alone would be reason enough for some critics to support an outright ban. And they contain high levels of fat and carbs, too.

The takeaway

“Lunchables are not a healthy option for kids and shouldn’t be allowed on the menu as part of the National School Lunch Program,” Brian Ronholm, Ddirector of Food Policy at CR, said in a statement.

“The Lunchables and similar lunch kits we tested contain concerning levels of sodium and harmful chemicals that can lead to serious health problems over time. The USDA should remove Lunchables from the National School Lunch Program and ensure that kids in schools have healthier options.”

My take

Lunchables and their imitators appear to be uniformly unhealthy, on some level or another, in one way or another. Or many. I’ve always thought they were too heavily skewed toward fat, salt and carbs. And I’ve never seen one that in clues any fruit or veg to speak of.

And, if a Lunchable (or) clone is intended to provide a full meal for a kid – no matter how young – it’s just not enough Food!

Yes. Lunchables and their clones should be banned from official school lunch programs.

And if you’re a Mom, or a single Dad, be sure to read the full CR report on Lunchables. No matter how convenient they are, or how loudly the kids may scream for them, you should know what they, and you, are letting yourselves in for!

~ Maggie J.