Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Since When Do We Need Lunch Inspectors?

I'm appalled, stunned and incensed to learn about a 4 year old who was told her home-packed lunch wasn't good enough on January 30 of this year, because it did not meet one person's idea of an approved lunch. From the North Carolina Journal,
"When the girl came home with her lunch untouched, her mother wanted to know what she ate instead. Three chicken nuggets, the girl answered. Everything else on her cafeteria tray went to waste."
"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."
In a report written by Sara Burrows for the North Carolina Journal, it's made clear that, "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."

So a state-approved random agent inspected the girl's lunchbox and decided her lunch was not healthy enough and decided she needed chicken nuggets instead? Do they not know what those things are made from? I used to make chicken nuggets for a living, folks, I know all too well that there isn't enough real meat in a nugget to be healthy. Very rarely you can buy chicken "cuts" in a nugget size. The difference is that a "cut" has a grain to the meat. This is an actual piece of chicken meat, sometimes from the breast of the bird. But I can tell you that that kind of cut isn't going to be within the budget of a school. They would probably buy the nuggets that are cheaper and faster to cook, and there is very little about those that are healthy.

For my liking, this allows State officials too much power, but I'm Canadian, so maybe I'm not allowed to have an opinion. But read this and consider what it means,
"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." The lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable, but not both, she said."

So who was the "inspector" who decided that the lunch was not nutritious enough? None of the reports name the person, and the principal of the school clearly has no idea what happens in his school.
"The school principal, Jackie Samuels, said he didn't "know anything about" parents being charged for the meals that day. "I know they eat in the cafeteria. Whether they pay or not, they eat in the cafeteria."

Why would a perfectly healthy lunch be discounted and chicken nuggets offered to the child? Well, we can only assume that more than just chicken nuggets were offered, although no one makes it clear what was on the offered lunch tray. But the girl's mother, who wishes to remain anonymous in order 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.  Wait a minute.... this mother is expecting backlash because she went public with this? What kind of community is she living in? What kind of a school system does this? Jani Kozlowski is quoted as saying, "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," Kozlowski said.

Ultimately, the child care provider can't take the Coke and Twinkie away from the child, but Kozlowski said she "would think the Pre-K provider would talk with the parent about that not being a healthy choice for their child."

So the State Inspector, whoever that was, was wrong to deem the lunch not nutritious. Furthermore, the school sent the bill for $1.25 home for a lunch that was not needed or welcomed! And the principal knows nothing about it? Right, tell me another fable.
Since when do four year olds need their lunch boxes inspected? Really? This is what North Carolina does with their money? Hire people to inspect lunches healthy?

This, if nothing else proves that government has gotten quite cozy in the pockets of it's citizenry. It also proves that the principal of the West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford, North Carolina isn't doing his job. Apparently, the mother of this girl has written to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County, who is looking into the matter. One can only hope the follow up is shared with the citizenry as well.

Now, let me say that we also have a picky eater, which this girl apparently is. It's tough to get your child to eat healthy at the best of times. I send as nutritious a lunch as I can manage with our youngest son, and everything comes home again. My hands are tied somewhat by a no-peanut rule due to an allergic child in the school. Fair enough. Slightly more restrictive, but I understand why. No biggie. But because our youngest really doesn't eat lunch, it forces us to get more creative with breakfast and dinner to make sure he eats right. I know I'm not the only parent out there who faces this. One of my customers asked me a couple of weeks ago what I pack for the boys for their lunches, she's at her wits end trying to find something her children will eat. Our eldest and middle sons both eat fairly well, although I remember the middle son was not a great eater at his younger brother's age. He is still outgrowing it. I can only hope the youngest will as well, that one day he'll decide he likes more than spaghetti, meat loaf, cheese and corn. In the meantime, we're battling with a school system that has taken away hot dog day, tried to abolish pizza day and at one time would only allow water in the school. (Did I mention our youngest hates drinking water?)

So my heart goes out to this embattled mother who worries her daughter will face retaliation if her identity gets out. She clearly has enough to worry about with a picky eater, she shouldn't need to worry about a self-important state lunch inspector deeming her packed lunches unhealthy.
Lunch cops...damn, what's next? Smoking police?
Oh wait, we already have those....

Still trust in government?


Lexington said...

This story sounds improbable on multiple levels. Given that neither the victim or "inspector" is identified and the principal claims to be unaware of this incident -which could just be true- I think it should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism until it can be independently confirmed.

I know, that's less fun than jumping all over Big Government. Especially in the socialist peoples' republic of...North Carolina! (!)

Carolyn said...

Lexington, I'd like to reassure you that I made sure this story was on the level before I blogged about it. I confirmed that it was carried by at least three legitimate publications before I wrote about it. I can provide emails of the principal as well as the original reporter if need be.

Blondi said...

I also checked into the story. The original report is done by the Carolina Journal which has been around at least since 1991 online. They give the name of the school, the principal and the N.C. representative that had been contacted. The only names left out are the mother and child because she asked for privacy and the inspector, possibly to save face for him or her or maybe because they are still investigating the incident. It sounds like someone got over enthusiastic with their inspecting to me.

Blondi said...

I just checked the Carolina Journal today and there is another article about the chicken nugget incident. By the way, this journal is connected to the Winston-Salem newspaper in NC. The article for today is listed here:

There is also an article about the incident in the Fayettville Observer. Here is the article's url:

Sorry, Lexington, Carolyn has done her homework on this one, and it most definitely is true. North Carolina may not be the socialist people's republic yet, but this is most definitely a socialist type of intrusion and needs to be looked into. As a person who grew up in the state just below NC and taught in the schools there for more than 20 years, I could see this happening. I just hope it gets settled quickly in the parent's favor. I certainly would be ballistic if someone did this to my child.