Healthy nugget lunch? A four year-old pre-kindergartner's homemade lunch consisting of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, a bag of potato chips, and an apple juice didn't pass muster at West Hoke Elementary School in Robeson County, North Carolina. Instead, a lunch monitor employed by the state insisted she eat the USDA-approved cafeteria lunch.
According to a report in a local paper, the Carolina Journal, the girl's mother (who wanted to remain anonymous), discovered the switch when her daughter came home with her packed lunch untouched. When she asked what her daughter ate for lunch, the little girl responded, "Three chicken nuggets."
USDA guidelines for pre-K programs stipulate that lunch (whether brown bagged or provided by the cafeteria) must include one serving of meat, one serving of grain, and two servings of a fruit or a vegetable. Speaking with the Journal, the child's grandmother suspected that the packed lunch was banned because of the potato chips and lack of a vegetable. A spokesperson for the Division of Child Development and Early Education and Child Development at the Department of Health and Human Services clarified and said it appeared, "the lunch itself should have met…the standard." School are not required to regulate added snack items.
Additionally, the girl's mother pointed out, "I pack her lunch box 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 care for vegetables." Consistent with her mother's observation, the girl only ate the chicken nuggets and the rest of the school lunch went to waste. The kicker? The school sent the family a bill of $1.25 and a note saying that that students who didn't bring a "healthy lunch" would be given cafeteria food as a replacement.
While no one doubts the importance of childhood nutrition, rejecting a reasonable brown-bagged meal seems especially ludicrous when a few months ago Congress allowed that pizza can be considered vegetable for USDA-approved school lunches.
Should home packed lunches even be subject to government regulations? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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