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Amanda Rock

Preschooler's Packed Lunch Called "Unhealthy;" Replaced With Chicken Nuggets

By February 16, 2012

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What's in your preschooler's lunchbox? Should it matter? One North Carolina family found out that it really does.

According to the Carolina Journal Online, preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School had her lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice taken away and replaced with a school meal when a state agent decided the lunch didn't meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. The guidelines say that all lunches in pre-kindergarten and in-home day care centers (including lunches brought from home) must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables.

Instead, the child (who has not been identified for her privacy) ate three chicken nuggets provided by the school cafeteria. There was other food on the tray, but it was not eaten. The Carolina Journal Online reports that the mother was told via note that she'd need to pay $1.25 for the meal. She has since written a letter to her state representative G.L. Pridgen.

The child's mother told the Carolina Journal Online, "What got me so mad is, number one, don't tell my kid I'm not packing her lunch box properly. 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."

There has been a lot of reaction to the story -- mostly slamming the school and the policy. And to be honest, my knee-jerk reaction was to say, "Oh, no way!" But then I read a post by my colleague, Dr. Vincent Iannelli, that says while the state worker made a mistake in taking away the child's food, the policy itself is pretty sound. (Read his take here.) It's an interesting perspective. Still, I do have objections -- as a parent, I want to be able to control what I put in my child's lunchbox. To an outsider, the contents might not look healthy or even make sense, but that shouldn't matter. My child may have a condition that requires certain foods or she could simply be a picky eater and we are doing the best we can, hoping to even out our healthy eating with breakfast, dinner and snacks.

What do you think?

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Comments
February 16, 2012 at 11:11 am
(1) Maureen says:

I don’t want members of the school staff or anyone else for that matter giving food to my child unless I approve it. I don’t care if it’s an apple or a pack of HoHos. That’s a rule if we’re on the playground or in the cafeteria.

I understand that there are some parents who rely on food service from schools — either food that they purchase or receive from a social service program. But this doesn’t seem to be related to any program a parent opted into. It’s just wrong and intrusive.

February 16, 2012 at 11:54 am
(2) Trena Esparza says:

I am curious why they feel that chicken nuggets are a healthy meal? Are these processed meat nuggets? How are they cooked? Chicken nuggets are HORRIBLY unhealthful and usually mechanically processed meats that use the “extra” parts of a chicken, are ground up, soaked in an ammonia bath because of all the bacteria, bleached to get a white color, with loads of salt and preservatives! The school needs to rethink their policies and procedures where lunches are concerned before they get slapped with a lawsuit.

February 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm
(3) Laureen says:

I think this quote from the mom speaks volumes: “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.”

Parents know what they’re kids will eat and how to get them to eat it. We’re just creating a lot of waste here. I bet the rest of that kid’s school-provided lunch was thrown in the the trash.

You can lead a kid to a balanced lunch but you can’t make him eat it.

February 17, 2012 at 7:40 am
(4) NOREEN says:

WHAT IF THE CHILD WAS GLUTEN INTOLERANT AND HER SANDWICH WAS ON GLUTEN FREE BREAD? GIVING HER WHEAT COATED CHICKEN NUGGETS COULD HAVE CAUSED THE CHILD TO BECOME SICK.
APPARENTLY NO ONE CHECKED TO SEE IF PERHAPS THE CHILD WAS ALLERGIC TO CHICKEN. YES, SOME PEOPLE ARE ALLERGIC TO FOODS OTHER THAN PEANUTS, MILK, AND WHEAT.

February 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm
(5) Keri says:

What I’m having trouble comprehending is how the lunch didn’t qualify. One serving meat – turkey, One milk – cheese, one grain – bread, 2 fruit OR veggies – banana & apple juice. Ok, the potato chips were extraneous, but doesn’t everyone need a little fun in mealtime? Besides, why replace the entire meal rather than just supplementing any element the state worker didn’t feel was covered?

While I agree with the new guidelines, all we can do is put food in front of our children and hope they eat it. The guidelines cannot guarantee that a child is going to get all of those nutrients from their lunch – school or home supplied.

February 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm
(6) Cassie says:

I pack my son’s lunch because he’s on a Gluten-free diet and we’re vegetarian. So that’s two ingredients in their chicken nuggets that would harm my child and offend us. Hope this never happens to us. We’ll make the teacher and principal aware of his dietary needs.

February 21, 2012 at 4:19 am
(7) anharattia says:

thats what i call taking healthy food too far, the lunch the mom packed is exactly what i give my daughter, turkey and cheese sandwich in whole bread and a banana and Chocolate milk, sometimes carrots sometimes not, but that’s what my child eat, this people has gone too far and they might unintentionally planted in the girl’s mind that Mama doesnot care for her health….

I would definitly be mad

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