It makes a great story - or at least a great headline:
- Food Inspector Confiscates Kid's Homemade Lunch
- Preschooler's lunch rejected by official
- Food police reject preschooler's homemade lunch... in favour of chicken nuggets
- Food police confiscate 4-year old's lunch, bill parents
- Preschooler's Homemade Lunch Confiscated by Food Police
- Nanny state report: NC school officials confiscate preschooler's homemade lunch
- Flunking lunch in preschool
- State Agent Tells Preschooler She Can't Eat Home-packed Lunch
- My Kid's Lunch Is None of the Government's Business
- The Lunch Nazis Are Coming! No, They're Here.
So what happened? A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford, North Carolina was told that her home-packed lunch with a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice was not a healthy lunch. She was given a tray lunch from the cafeteria instead, but just ate three chicken nuggets.
This all occurred because of a rule in North Carolina to help children in child care meet "minimum nutritional requirements" and comply with Meal Patterns for Children in Child Care standards.
These minimum nutritional requirements state that lunch should consist of at least four components (out of these five choices):
- 2 or more fruits or vegetables, which can include a serving of 100% fruit juice
- a meat or meat alternative, including alternate protein products (cheese, eggs, beans, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, yogurt, etc.)
- a bread or bread alternative, including muffins, cereal, pasta, etc.
Now since the preschooler in the article had a serving of meat (turkey), bread, and two servings of fruit (the banana and the apple juice), then she met the minimum nutritional requirements and should not have been given a tray lunch. And even if she had been missing something, the Food From Home rule is not that you replace the whole lunch, but rather that they "must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements."
So the whole story is based on a mistake that was made by the school or state employee and not because of how the program is supposed to work. The "food police" aren't inspecting school lunches to create a nanny state. They are trying to help make sure preschoolers get a minimum level of nutrition.
North Carolina has some of the highest obesity rates in the country. Whether it is to make sure preschoolers learn to eat healthier or just meet minimum nutritional requirements, should we really target a program that might help them grow and avoid becoming overweight?