The makings of a food fight may be underway in North Carolina after a Pre-K administrator gave a pre-schooler a food tray with chicken nuggets on it because her home-packed goodies didn't meet state nutrition standards, according reports.
Mom doesn't know best?
Instead of the turkey and cheese sandwich, apple juice, potato chips and banana prepared by her mother, the girl ended up scarfing down some chicken nuggets from the West Hope Elementary cafeteria, according to the Carolina Journal.
The girl’s mother reportedly said she got a letter from the school saying that kids who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered one from the school for a fee.
“What got me so mad is, No. 1, 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.”
Support from elected official
The January 30 incident has also struck a chord among people sensitive to government overreach into the lives of parents.
In a complaint to Robeson County Republican Rep. G. L. Pridgen, the mother, who said she did not want to be identified in the media, said she didn’t feel that she should have to pay for a school lunch when she already provided food for her daughter.
Speaking to HLN on Wednesday, Pridgen said he sides with the mother. “She packs a very nourishing lunch and they tell her that’s not good enough and give the child chicken nuggets -- something I don’t even eat. I’m very proud of her for bringing this to the forefront. Hopefully it won’t happen again. She should have gotten a medal instead of the other way around.”
Calls and emails by HLN to Hoke County Schools administrators were not immediately returned.
Do guidelines go too far?
Guidelines for the state Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services say that “nutritious meals and snacks which contain the food groups outlined in the Meal Patterns for Children in Child Care must be provided,” meaning if home-packed lunches don't include the required foods, Pre-k providers must supplement children's food trays.
State rules also say “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.”
“If a parent sends their child with a Coke and a Twinkie, the child care provider is going to need to provide a balanced lunch for the child,” Jani Kozlowski, a policy manager for the division, told the Journal. “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.
The incident comes amid heightened national awareness about childhood obesity, which has been championed recently by health care initiatives around the country and even the first lady of the United States.