A North Carolina mom is irate after her four-year-old daughter returned home late last month with an uneaten lunch the mother had packed for the girl earlier that day. But she wasn't mad because the daughter decided to go on a hunger strike. Instead, the reason the daughter didn't eat her lunch is because someone at the school determined the lunch wasn't healthy enough and sent it back home.
Yes, you read that right.
The incident happened in Raeford, N.C. at West Hoke Elementary School. What was wrong with the lunch? That's still a head-scratcher because it didn't contain anything egregious: a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice. But for the inspector on hand that day, it didn't meet the healthy requirements.
See, in North Carolina, all pre-Kindergarten programs are required to evaluate the lunches being provided and determine if they meet USDA nutrition guidelines. If not, they must provide an alternative.
But that's not the worst of it. Instead of being given a salad or something really healthy, the girl was given chicken nuggets instead. On top of it, her mother was then sent a bill for the cafeteria food.
Sara Burrows from the Carolina Journal explains:
The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.
The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.
When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.
The girl’s mother — who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation — said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.
“I don't feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home,” the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County, reports the Journal.
“What got me so mad is, number one, don’t tell my kid I’m not packing her lunch box properly,” the girl’s mother told the Journal. “I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats. It always consists of a fruit. It never consists of a vegetable. She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn’t really care for vegetables.”
The Journal provides a copy of the state regulation:
“Sites must provide breakfast and/or snacks and lunch meeting USDA requirements during the regular school day. The partial/full cost of meals may be charged when families do not qualify for free/reduced price meals.
“When children bring their own food for meals and snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the specified nutritional requirements, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements.”
But what was so wrong with the lunch the mother provided? Nothing apparently. A spokesowman for the Division of Child Development explained that the mother's meal should have been okay.
“With a turkey sandwich, that covers your protein, your grain, and if it had cheese on it, that’s the dairy,” Jani Kozlowski, the fiscal and statutory policy manager for the division, told the Journal. “It sounds like the lunch itself would’ve met all of the standard.”
It's unclear from reports who determined the lunch wasn't healthy enough. The Carolina Journal refers to the person as a "state agent," while the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls the persona "state inspector" who was checking lunches that day. In an email to The Blaze, Caroline Journal reporter said the inspector was "an employee of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education."
The school denied knowledge of the incident and said it's looking into it.
"While I share concerns about childhood obesity, I still remain uncertain of the right role for schools," writes the Journal-Constitution's Maureen Downey. "This story clearly exemplifies the wrong role."
Read the full story at the Carolina Journal.