Government Official Replaces Pre-Schoolers Lunch; Bills Mother For The Replacement Cost
Apparently the healthy lunch a California woman packed for her preschooler wasn't healthy enough; A state agent following the mandates handed down by the Federal government replaced it and then billed the mother for the cost.
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 agent from the Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services made a decision that this cold lunch didn't meet the Federal government's guidelines, so she replaced them with chicken nuggets. Then, the school billed the mother for them.
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.
With the Obama administration's focus on getting American's to eat more healthy foods, the USDA has proliferated the nation's public schools with broad-stroke changes to make school lunch menus conform.
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.
Even with the explanation, the victim is left questioning what part of the lunch she packed didn't conform.
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 CJ. “I pack her lunchbox according to what she eats. It always consists of a fruit. It never consists of a vegetable. She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn’t really care for vegetables.”
Even an official from the agency is unclear about the charge.
“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.
There are no clear restrictions about what additional items — like potato chips — can be included in preschoolers’ lunch boxes.