A four-year-old’s home-packed lunch — turkey-and-cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice — was rejected by a state lunchbox inspector at a North Carolina elementary school, reports the Carolina Journal. Instead the preschooler ate three chicken nuggets from the school lunch – and nothing else. Mom was charged $1.25.
“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 CJ. “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 state requires all lunches served in pre-K programs — including in-home day-care centers — to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, which call for one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables.
As it turns out, the lunch did meet USDA guidelines. “With a turkey sandwich, that covers your protein, your grain, and if it had cheese on it, that’s the dairy,” said Jani Kozlowski, the fiscal and statutory policy manager for the division (of child development). The lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable, but not both, she said. Potato chips don’t de-nutritionize an otherwise health lunch.
So North Carolina hires lunchbox inspectors — at what salary I wonder? — to snatch turkey sandwiches from little girls. (OK, they didn’t take her home-packed lunch away, but she didn’t eat it because she’d been told it was “not healthy,” according to her mother.)
The school principal says parents aren’t charged for the school lunch. The pre-K program is funded by the state for children from low-income families or those with special needs.
It’s a “non-troversy,” argues The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. The inspector was investigating the school’s compliance with the subsidized lunch program, which requires providing additional food to kids who don’t bring a healthy lunch.
A second mother has complained, saying her daughter was told not to eat her home-packed lunch (salami and cheese on a wheat bun and apple juice). Instead, she ate chicken nuggets, sweet potato and milk. A letter sent to parents warns they may be charged if they miss a food group and their child receives supplemental food.