A turkey sandwich and chips from home versus school nuggets: Sounds like a toss-up to me

UPDATE: As I noted yesterday, we had yet to hear the other side of this bizarre story. Among the reports I am getting today:  No federal guidelines led to the subbing of the home-brought lunch of the 4-year-old with a school lunch.  There was a state review under way of the child care center at the school, which includes the nutritional content of the lunches eaten by children. A teacher apparently was concerned about one child’s homemade lunch and overreacted. I am being told that the school apologized to the parent.  There are probably more updates to come. I am trying to get a comment from the state.

Three readers sent me links today to this story out of North Carolina about what sounds like an overzealous response by food police checking pre-school lunch trays.

A state inspector (not sure what that means) checking a Raeford, N.C., elementary school lunchroom decreed that a 4-year-old’s lunch from home — a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice — did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the Carolina Journal story. Instead, the child was given cafeteria chicken nuggets.

While I share concerns about childhood obesity, I still remain uncertain of the right role for schools. This story clearly exemplifies the wrong role.

But let me also add that we don’t know the school’s side of this odd tale. Was the child tossing her sandwich and fruit every day and only eating the chips? Was she telling her teacher she was hungry so she was offered the school lunch? (And was the “agent” cited in the story actually the teacher?) In deference to student privacy, schools often don’t respond to stories like this, so we are left only with the parent’s account.

A reader was surprised to read this but checked and reported back: I was stunned by this, so I looked to the NC website and found this. It provides:
CHILD CARE RULE .0901
Food From Home
When children bring their own food for meals or snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the nutritional requirements outlined in the Meal Patterns for Children in Child Care, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements.

I am only sharing an excerpt of the lengthy piece, but if you read the full story, you get the sense that, if this happened, it will not happen again. (The full story also cites the state regulation.)

From the Carolina Journal:

A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because a state employee told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.  The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones. The girl’s mother — who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation — said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

“I don’t feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home,” the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative. “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

When the girl came home with her lunch untouched, her mother wanted to know what she ate instead. Three chicken nuggets, the girl answered.

While the mother and grandmother thought the potato chips and lack of vegetable were what disqualified the lunch, a spokeswoman for the Division of Child Development said that should not have been a problem.

“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. “It sounds like the lunch itself would’ve met all of the standard.”

–From Maureen Downey for the AJC Get Schooled blog

126 comments Add your comment

Frankie

February 14th, 2012
1:11 pm

have you seen some of the people that work at the USDA and HHS they are as obese as they come.. Have you been to your doctors office lately, the nurses there are obese to by BMI standards.

I think the HHS need to keep their noses out of my childs lunch box..You mean to tell me that PROCESSED chicken nuggets are more nutritious than a turkey sandwich…maybe processed turkey but turkey cut from the bird itself…

Did these idiots stop the think that My child does not drink COWS Milk, and the apple you provide, who washed it off, and are the vegetables fresh/frozen/canned… they too may contain more sugar and sodium than i want my child to intake..
So again I say stay out of my child lunch box and any charge you think you are going to levy against me you better think again.

Frankie

February 14th, 2012
1:13 pm

This is my problem with the public school system. My child is there to learn and when you have these people trying to impart their unfounded wisdom on MY Child…it set me off.I should not have to explain what or why i put what i put in my childs lunch box at all.

catlady

February 14th, 2012
1:27 pm

You should see the total junk some kids bring to school–all plastic (heavily processed “food”), high calorie/sugar, no veggies. No redeemable social value–the pornographic lunch box.

Lakesia

February 14th, 2012
1:34 pm

Mmmm, nuggets! Actually the sandwich/banana/chips/apple juice combo sounds a lot more appetizing. But then what do I know compared to a government inspector.

resno2

February 14th, 2012
1:36 pm

Who is the idiot that gave a glorified cafeteria worker the right to look into ANYONE’S lunchbox?

Pardon My Blog

February 14th, 2012
1:44 pm

@catlady – Some kids do bring junk but not all. Besides with the little time most students get for lunch most do not have the time to stand in line for a tray of food that will go mostly uneaten. By the time they get to the table some have at the most 5 minutes to wolf it down and then back to class. Talk about unhealthy!

oldtimer

February 14th, 2012
1:47 pm

What I pack…or in my case now..packed for my children, is my choice based on what I know they would eat. Neither of my girls whould have touched chicken nugets and chips were an occasional treat. Maybe the girl had a cold and milk whould have made hker cough worse.
This is a big over reach of Nanny Government. Find the worker a better job.

oldtimer

February 14th, 2012
1:49 pm

And quite frankly…My children get to eat what I decide whether someone agrees with it or not. Students where I taught sometimes brought soda, chips, all kinds of junk. But, we do not get to tell them..you cannot eat it.

Teacher Reader

February 14th, 2012
1:52 pm

The government has no right to tell us what we can and cannot eat. I don’t care if a child has a brown bag of an assortment of chips and a soda or a turkey and cheese sandwich and milk, it is no one’s business. If we want parents to be parents, than we have to let them do their job, and have the government stop taking parental roles in children’s lives.

Pluto

February 14th, 2012
1:54 pm

Like it or not public schools provide the vehicle necessary for the indoctrination needed for a fully compliant society to come about. The rest can be sent to “re-education centers” for treatment. We will be provided for cradle to grave whether or not you want it.

Ivan Cohen

February 14th, 2012
2:06 pm

The food police have gone overboard in Raeford, North Carolina. I hope it won’t happen again. The unfavorable publicity should see to that. Meanwhile in Georgia, not every household can send a child to school with a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice. Often the lunch at school is the only kind of meal these kids get. Some mothers and even fathers take time at home to prepare foods that enhance health rather than detract from it. Others chose: Arby’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, etc. Children pick up on the choices their parents make and mimic them.

carlosgvv

February 14th, 2012
2:06 pm

I took my lunch to school countless times many years ago. There were no State inspectors checking contents. This is certainly one case where the Govt. has gone way too far.

Joe Cass

February 14th, 2012
2:06 pm

The author of the article for the Carolina Journal is a known right winger with less than tenuous ties to facts. The same could be of the Carolina Journal. Why don’t you all keep your powder dry until the truth is revealed?

skipper

February 14th, 2012
2:31 pm

Maureen,
Congrats! I now have heard the biggest crock in the history of public education! I challenge ANYONE (including the moron who made this decision) to reveal as to why the lunch was not “nutritious”. This, along with about 50,000 other things, is what is wrong with the entire public school system!

Edward L Maddog

February 14th, 2012
2:33 pm

NOW!!! NOW!!! The taxpayers are paying some government, KNOW somebody and KNOW NOTHING, as proved by their action. To INSPECT lunches…..???? Related to/friends with who??? Follow the money and the family tree. How do you git a $50,000 a year job to do nothing but drive around and bust 4 year old with home a lunch???? Probably has a government vehicle with government gas card to do nothing. And your taxes will be going up, cuz they need more training to do nothing. If they just had MORE MONEY to do the job right. WE all need all jobs like that, IF we just knew somebody to pull some strings for US. The poor tax payers are running out of money fast. But then we’ll be taxed at 110% to balance the budgets.

Northern reader

February 14th, 2012
2:39 pm

Doesn’t this story strike anyone as made up? I find it hard to believe that there are government workers who inspect lunches brought from home. The Carolina Journal site is the only place on the Web that even mentions this incident.

Pardon My Blog

February 14th, 2012
2:50 pm

@Northern reader – Yeah, I thought maybe this was a tongue and cheek story but Ms. Downey is presenting it as fact and I am sure she checked it out. You won’t see this reported in the main stream media because I believe that this is the direction that FLOTUS wants to take her “program”!

Probably true

February 14th, 2012
2:58 pm

Sounds like what my older two had to endure in the Georgia Pre-K program years ago. They both attended in a daycare facility, and were not allowed to bring lunch from home. Instead, we were REQUIRED to pay a weekly fee of $18 for lunches that came in buckets out of a tractor trailer. My daughter would not eat most of what was served, and would come home hungry. I thought she was just being picky. We ate Thanksgiving lunch with her at the pre-k program, and I immediately knew why she wouldn’t eat it. It was the most disgusting frankenfood I’ve ever tasted (that’s as far as I made it in actually eating the food).

But yeah, I’m not surprised if this is true for the pre-k program. Most of what passes for “food” in my kids’ school cafeterias is industrial-strength as well. Anyone want to guess what an entree called “Flavor to the Max Sticks” are made of?

Maureen Downey

February 14th, 2012
3:17 pm

@Pardon, The story is not tongue-in-cheek, but the school system has not put out its side, which may well be that the child was tossing her sandwich every day and just eating the chips. I am not clear about the “agent” cited in the story and wonder if that really was the teacher.
Systems are hamstrung by student privacy laws, which is why there are so many TV news stories of parents alleging their child was mistreated in some way with no response from the system.
Maureen

Ashley

February 14th, 2012
3:19 pm

You mean to tell me processed chicken nuggets are healthier than a turkey and cheese sandwich? Talk about over-reaching , I am appalled that this so-call inspector would humiliate this little 4-year old girl. This could have been handle in more professional way, the lunch seems adequate to me. While I will admit school lunches are probably more appetizing in todays world. A brown bag lunch from home gets my vote everytime. Although I believe some parents deserve the bashings they sometimes receive on this site….this is not one of those moments, it would appear she was being a good responsible mother. So I guess mothers and fathers now need the “food police” in their kitchen……shame on the gov’t.

efesgirl

February 14th, 2012
3:19 pm

Well, this rates right up there with that school in Cincinnati, Ohio paying students to attend classes. Anybody read that story yet? The government has gone from the ridiculous to the outrageous! All the way from local governments to that big room of overpaid decision makers in Washington.

V for Vendetta

February 14th, 2012
3:21 pm

Wow. That’s all there is to say about this.

We obviously have some MAJOR problems in our society if this is an example of how far we let the government even THINK about extending its reach. However, we will probably still continue to vote based on candidates’ views on Evolution and Abortion–even though both of those topics have very little to do with our day-to-day lives. Sigh.

drew (former teacher)

February 14th, 2012
3:26 pm

“The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services”…

The name alone says it all…when gov’t goes wild – UNRATED! I guess it’s the DCDEEDHHS for short, eh? I wonder how many employees the DCDEEDHHS has, and what exactly it does, besides rule on the nutritional value of kid’s lunches.

Just another example of government sticking their nose in something that’s none of the damn business. Ridiculous!

Old timer

February 14th, 2012
3:28 pm

Wasn’t there a story in the last year or two about a city of Chicago school that would not “allow” children to bring lunch from home? As I recall there was a lot of outrage about that. One parent complained because they had a child that did not like the lunch.

Gary

February 14th, 2012
3:40 pm

With each passing soft tyranny hypocrisy we are slowing moving from a simmer to a low boil to a more rapid boil as a population. soetoro is simply accelerating the process toward the day when America takes America back from the government. Wonder where soetoro will be when that day comes?

drew (former teacher)

February 14th, 2012
3:43 pm

Maureen…so what if the child “tosses” the turkey sandwich and eats the chips? Who’s responsible for what that student eats? No…it’s not the Government, it’s her parent’s, and her parent’s ALONE.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…healthy foods > unhealthy foods, but expecting the government to step in is absolutely asinine! If kids are too fat how about we bring back a little more PE…”One tubby tubby…two tubby tubby…three tubby tubby…”

APS HS teacher

February 14th, 2012
3:44 pm

The few times I have eaten in North Atlanta’s H.S. cafeteria, I was not impressed. Generally they get nachos(way too salty), pizza, sub sandwiches (worst coldcuts), or some daily ethic food (lo mein to me seemed like cooked spaghetti with soy, and cut up day old nuggets topped it off). I know in this free and reduced lunch times and scoring costs of food has been a challenge to healthy eating but come on , could we not do a better job (btw, apples, oranges, salads were available but barely touched)

Mahopinion

February 14th, 2012
3:56 pm

So, if the student tosses the lunch, the school can decide to proclaim it “unhealthy”? How healthy were the 3 chicken nuggets? Doesn’t sound like she ate much of the “healthy” lunch either.

Frankly, what my child eats for their lunch is no business of the teacher or any other “agent”. It’s my choice and mine alone.

Maureen Downey

February 14th, 2012
3:58 pm

@Drew, These are 4-year-olds. It is understandable there is more focus on what they eat.
Maureen

Jon Ham

February 14th, 2012
4:09 pm

To those trying to impugn the reporter and Carolina Journal, I, as publisher, must come to their defense. Yes, we are published by the John Locke Foundation, a free-market, limited government think tank, but our reporters have for more than 20 years uncovered corruption and waste in state government that was often ignored by North Carolina’s mainstream media. If you doubt that, just ask our former governor and our previous governor, one who is a convicted felon as a result of our stories, and the other who has decided not to run for a second term. A CJ series of stories about her campaign’s non-reporting of free air travel, and the resulting indictment of several campaign aides, probably played into that decision.

Kendrick1

February 14th, 2012
4:18 pm

There’s a school outside of Richmond, Kentucky that fines the children if they bring their lunch and don’t eat that which is served by the school!

[...] more at Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog). Share this news: Filed Under: Child [...]

[...] more at Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog). Share this news: Filed Under: Child [...]

Jack

February 14th, 2012
4:48 pm

This is why the Dpt of Agriculture should be shuttered, like the Education Dpt and others. We don’t need them to tell us how to live. Get RID of them, for God’s sake.

John

February 14th, 2012
4:49 pm

Maureen, are you kidding me? Your response to Drew betrays your bent. This has nothing to do with them being 4 year olds or whether the food is good. Who the heck empowers the government to decide what our kids eat. My God people…Give up some of your freedoms and this Obama crowd is going to come back for more and more. Stop trying to parent our kids…This nightmare cannot end soon enough.

Maureen Downey

February 14th, 2012
4:50 pm

@John, Not sure you would agree if the child brought Snickers every day for lunch. I think there is more adult responsibility with preschoolers to ensure that they are getting what they need to function during the day.
Maureen

By the way to all:
A reader was surprised to read this but checked and reported back: I was stunned by this, so I looked to the NC website and found this. http://ncchildcare.dhhs.state.nc.us/pdf_forms/center_chp9.pdf

It provides:
CHILD CARE RULE .0901
Food From Home
When children bring their own food for meals or snacks to the center, if the food does not meet the nutritional requirements outlined in the Meal Patterns for Children in Child Care, the center must provide additional food necessary to meet those requirements.

bill booth

February 14th, 2012
4:52 pm

Yet one more out of control bureaucrat demi god with too much power. In this case she over stepped her authority The guide lines do not include lunches from home. give them a few years and we will be force fed soylant green!

John

February 14th, 2012
4:54 pm

No Maureen, I completely disagree. It is a parent’s decision, not the government’s decision. Being a parent it is absolutely infuriating to think that there is someone else out there trying to meddle in my parental decisions. I am amazed that this would not outrage everyone, but then again, so many people have abdicated their responsibilities to parent and are more than happy to defer to others. Yeah, that’s working out great, isn’t it?

I would know-

February 14th, 2012
4:57 pm

As a high school student, I know for a fact that the school lunch is rather unappetizing! But I can also understand the need for inspections as some students can get away with almost anything. In fact several of my class-mates have gotten drunk during school hours with alcohol that they bring to school in their packed lunches.

drew (former teacher)

February 14th, 2012
5:01 pm

Maureen,
My point is, the last things schools need is yet another “job” that involves usurping the power of parents. Schools have a job to do, and parents have a job to do. And while they may overlap, they’re NOT the same. Lines need to be drawn.

If a teacher notices students they suspect may be suffering from, for lack of a better term, “nutritional neglect”, they should report it to DFACS (or whatever social service agency) and let them do their purported job.

Schools policing nutrition makes as much sense as DFACS policing education. The school’s plate is already full (pun intended).

John

February 14th, 2012
5:01 pm

@I would know, should we go through your purse every day? Should we pat you down at the door? Heck, you might have a joint in your pocket, should a “government inspector” be allowed to reach into your pocket or perhaps your blouse? Not trying to be provocative here, but where does it end? How much personal freedom are we willing to give up before we start to see the light. Wake up folks, the freedom is vanishing, and it starts, apparently with pre-schoolers.

Ashley

February 14th, 2012
5:02 pm

In my generation if a gov’t worker tried to tell a parent their child couldn’t eat the sack lunch they prepared. There would be stars and they wouldn’t be gold either, catch my drift.

Usedtobedemocrate

February 14th, 2012
5:03 pm

The Obama administration demonizes parents choices now! Wake up that is how they take control. They have made, success bad, hard work bad, catholics bad, light bulbs bad, ….. And now bag lunches packed by a parent bad. It is all bad unless king Obama And queen Michelle dictate it. Vote these controlling democrats out and let’s return to living again.

Maureen Downey

February 14th, 2012
5:07 pm

@Usedtobe, It was North Carolina that enacted the law on subbing the lunch out so not sure why you are invoking the Obama administration.
Maureen

Danny Nix

February 14th, 2012
5:07 pm

Food Nazis. Get rid of them at all costs.

John

February 14th, 2012
5:09 pm

By the way, I wonder what would have happened if the child said she wasn’t going to eat it the government meal because she was a vegan. I think we all know that we would not behaving this discussion, because in the eyes of the goverment, vegan = good.

John

February 14th, 2012
5:11 pm

Maureen, two reasons. USDA guidelines, which are being championed by Michelle Obama and just the overall mood of government based upon the leadership at the top. The mood right now is unfettered intrusion, and that is scary.

Fred Smith

February 14th, 2012
5:20 pm

Let’s look at this logically:
1. We know schools are laying off workers. There is literally no way that there are “lunch inspectors” in North Carolina. It was probably a teacher who was supervising lunch. Four year olds need a lot of supervision when they eat.
2. It is clearly false that the sandwich was deemed inferior nutritionally to the sandwich. Much, much more likely is that the child was discarding or choosing not to eat the sandwich. The school then provided her with something she would eat. Perhaps she asked for chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets are like crack to four year olds.
3. Rather than seeing this as a usurpation of parental power, aided by right wing spin, why not see it as the school ensuring that the kid had food in her stomach. This is being spun in the worst way possible for partisan reasons. You will never know what really happened because schools never comment on these wild accusations for legal reasons.

Matt

February 14th, 2012
5:22 pm

Please don’t blame the public schools. THEY are not the ones passing the laws that require them to do half of the crap they have to do.

irritated

February 14th, 2012
5:23 pm

Our daughter attended public kindergarten and first grade. They did not “allow” a child under 3rd grade to drink water at lunch and that is all our daughter will drink (her choice) We had to have it written in an IEP for our daughter to be allowed to drink water instead of high calorie fruit punch, strawberry milk, chocolate milk or full calorie vitamin D milk. The food they served in the cafeteria looked like a heart attack waiting to happen filled with sodium, sugar, and fat. It is ridiculous.