This past January, a little girl from North Carolina’s West Hoke Elementary School arrived home with her packed lunch still intact. When her mother asked how come she didn’t eat, her 4-year-old said she did, she just ate the school lunch instead. When pressed further, this mama found out that her child had eaten three chicken nuggets and nothing else, because she didn’t like the hot lunch. Unhappy with the situation, the mother complained to state Rep. G.L. Pridgen, who plans to investigate the incident further. The above is true, but how this little girl ended up with just three nuggets for lunch is much hazier. According to Carolina Journal Online, an agent from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child Development and Early Education was at West Hoke in January to assess the pre-kindergarten program. The agent supposedly examined the lunches of six students and determined that one lunch, containing a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice, didn’t meet the proper nutritional criteria.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

packed lunch, school lunch, healthy lunch, school regulations, unhealthy school lunch, vegetarian school lunch, bad lunch, public school, hot lunch
Image by Flickr User lori05871

According to the Journal report, the child’s mother got a note from the school stating that students who fail to bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered missing healthy portions, which may result in a fee from the cafeteria. According to another source, the school claims that if a teacher sees a child with an unhealthy lunch, the child will be offered missing “healthy components” free of charge. The school went on to say that the child simply misunderstood her teacher and thought she had to get a whole new lunch rather than get extra “healthy elements” added to her packed lunch. The same source notes that the Department of Health and Human Services denies that any employee inspected the lunch, denies to say what, if anything was unhealthy about the meal and denies instructing the child to replace or discard any packed lunch items. Bob Barnes, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Hoke County schools said, “We are not the lunch bag police. We would never put a child in any type of embarrassing situation. But we are responsible to see that every child gets a nutritious meal.

packed lunch, school lunch, healthy lunch, school regulations, unhealthy school lunch, vegetarian school lunch, bad lunch, public school, hot lunch
Image by Flickr User USDAgov

Clearly something happened. The kid was only four. Four-year-old kids don’t just shun their normal lunch AND make it through an entire school lunch line without someone noticing. The child lunch had chips, true, but she also had healthy foods that may have been eaten had she felt her lunch was decent. The child’s mother and grandmother claim she’s picky about veggies so they have her eat them at home, and true to what they pointed out, the girl didn’t eat her veggies in the hot school lunch either.  In some ways schools getting involved in what kids eat is beneficial. However, when it gets to the point where a child deliberately doesn’t eat a home packed lunch that’s relatively healthy, it becomes sketchy, especially when school lunches literally just got healthier. For years school lunches have been deemed terrible by study after study. Now with the change in rules maybe schools feel a bit superior, but should they feel superior? Seriously they deemed pizza a vegetable!

I feel immune, because my son’s school has no hot lunch service, just packed lunches. I pack him lots of veggies and fruits, grains, but less protein at times because he’s vegetarian and it’s easier to serve protein at home. But, I’d be mad as heck if someone at his school said, “Hey you need more protein” and gave him some non-organic nasty chicken nuggets or god forbid, a burger or a ham sandwich. Some parents, like me, are dead-set against school lunches and specific types of food so having a school or the government make choices for their child could be infuriating. In any case, it’s an interesting situation, one that many parents likely want to weigh in on. What do you think? Do schools have the right to examine and regulate home packed lunches or not? Tell us in the comments.

Lead image by Flickr User hellofath