School Cafeteria Cameras: A Helicopter Parent's Dream

Julie Ryan Evans

school lunchWhen it comes to the need for children in this country to eat better and improve their health, there's no debate -- it must be done for their sake and the sake of our country. Improvements must happen, no doubt, but when and how are much more challenging issues and open to debate. One tool some are debating, however, is so ridiculous, it shouldn't even be on the table.

In San Antonio, five schools have installed cameras in their elementary school cafeterias. According to CNN, they take pictures of a child's lunch tray both before and after the meal has been eaten and then analyzes the food consumed for nutrition. That way, if your child takes an apple, but only takes one bite, you'll know what she means when she says she ate her apple. If your kid only eats French fries, you'll know that too.

Brilliant, right?

WRONG -- unless you're a crazy, hovering helicopter parent, then this is probably your dream come true.

Parents must give permission for a child's tray to be analyzed, but still, can you say BIG BROTHER? I admire Michelle Obama for her whole school lunch initiative, but this is going way too far.

First and foremost, we should be able to trust our children. How about just asking your child what he ate for lunch? If he repeatedly lies to you, you may have some deeper issues you need to work on besides what he's eating. While they're certainly likely to dupe us at times, we won't instill a lifetime of healthy habits by monitoring their every bite and forcing them to eat well with fear. We'll do it by teaching them through the meals we serve and the example we set to enjoy good food.

Also, this is just one meal a day. If you're feeding your child the other two yourself, your impact on his health is going to be much more significant, AND perhaps most importantly, if cafeterias offer mostly healthy fare to begin with, this shouldn't be a huge issue anyway.

Then there's the cost to taxpayers -- the five cameras are part of a $2 million federal grant, $2 million! Now if it was a guarantee to forever prevent obesity, that would be one thing, but the effectiveness of the cameras is questionable at best, and couldn't the money be better spent on serving healthier fare?

We can't monitor every bite our children put into their mouths -- nor should we try. In addition to all the reasons stated above, these cameras are also just flat-out creepy.

What do you think about schools placing cameras in school cafeterias so you can monitor what your child eats?

Image via DC Central Kitchen/Flickr

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