School Says Turkey Sandwich Not Healthy, Gives Child Cafeteria Nuggets

A North Carolina 4-year-old ate cafeteria chicken nuggets for lunch one day last month because the school told her the lunch her mother packed wasn’t nutritious enough.

The child’s lunchbox contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice. The adult who was inspecting lunch boxes in the classroom that day said the meal didn’t meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, so the student was required to purchase the school lunch, the Carolina Journal reports.

The incident raises questions about what constitutes a healthy lunch for kids.

USDA guidelines state that lunches must consist of one serving each of meat, milk and grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables. North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services requires that lunches served to pre-K kids, even those from home, meet these guidelines. If they don’t, schools must fill in the missing servings.

From the Carolina Journal:

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, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.

The girl’s grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.

The preschooler’s mother and grandmother thought the potato chips and lack of vegetable caused the lunch to fall short, but a spokeswoman for the Division of Child Development says the lunch should not have “failed” current guidelines. From Carolina Journal:

“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.

Kozlowski added that this school might need “technical assistance” on lunch rules.

Readers, what would an inspector see if she looked in your kid’s lunch box? What’s your definition of a healthy lunch?

Image: Chicken nuggets via Shutterstock.

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  1. by Caitlyn

    On February 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Really? Lunch box inspectors, even after all the hassle cafeterias are getting for their meals? My daughter’s lunch DEFINETLY wouldn’t pass then. PB&J on whole grain white, cheese balls, an orange, and a pack of fruit gummies. Are potato chips and cheese balls great? No, but if she’s only eating them in the right portions at lunch and she’s getting all of her nutrients at all other times, I don’t think it’s going to kill her. This is goofy.

  2. by Rebecca

    On February 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Who in their right mind would think that mechanically separated, processed chicken nuggets is healthier than anything on the planet? REALLY?

    And the USDA regulations are ridiculous. First of all, as an intelligent, healthy, thinking adult, I’m perfectly capable of spreading out proper portions of each food group throughout the day. I don’t have to balance them all in a single meal. Second, what do the regulations do for kids who are vegetarians, kids who are lactose intolerant, kids who are gluten intolerant, kids with allergies? Would a child be forced to eat meat even if their lunch included an alternate vegetarian protein option? Would a child who can’t have gluten be forced to eat bread because some ignorant person didn’t realize there are gluten alternatives? Would a lactose intolerant child be forced to eat some form of dairy just so the standards are met?

    I’m currently struggling with a child that is having trouble with either dairy and/or gluten, and we are in the process of trying to figure out which is the problem. I pack lunches very specifically based on the food elimination and testing that we’re working on. If I found out the school forced her to eat something else, I’d be beyond furious!!!