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.
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.
"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.