School Lunches: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

When I started this blog it was not intended discuss my experience in working with school lunches several years ago. However, the recent media blowout over a school girl’s lunch has me on edge.

It all comes down to misunderstanding and the school’s inability to handle the situation appropriately:

The girl’s teacher should have handed the child a carton of milk to round out the turkey-and-cheese sandwich and banana she brought from home. Instead, the teacher erred by telling the tyke to get a cafeteria lunch, Barnes (Hook County Superintendant) said.

The North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten is a state-run enrichment program to help 4-year-olds at risk of starting school lagging behind their peers. Ninety percent of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch.

I’m not happy that the school took it upon themselves to regulate what the child ate. I understand that North Carolina is required to provide a healthy lunch to students whose families qualify for free or reduced priced lunches. This program is overseen by the USDA as part of the National School Lunch (and Breakfast) Program. It helps fund school lunches to provide a balanced meal to students who qualify.

That being said, it doesn’t mean, in my opinion, making judgment calls about what a child brought from home. This is where I think the government over steps their boundaries. If it was handled appropriately, I don’t think we would be hearing about it. The teacher was following a state law to provide a child a more complete meal. Unfortunately, the teacher did not properly instruct the child on what needed to be done. So here is the question: Do I really want my teacher involved with my child’s (lunch) food?

My answer is, “No, I do not.” If there is a problem with a child not having food at lunch time, then the public school that provides the free or reduced price lunches definitely has some discretion on feeding that child. No one wants children going hungry. Sometimes kids forget their lunch. But to have teachers interfering with what a child did bring to school for lunch is definitely a “big brother” moment. If I was that child’s parent, I would be upset, too.

But here is the thing, some public schools are doing great at trying to provide more healthier options. Los Angeles Unified School District is consistently trying to offer healthier options. I just saw a local segment on the PBS show SoCal Connected where they are offering quinoa! Other schools offer a weekly (if not daily)salad bar for students. Celebrities like Jamie Oliver are trying to build that awareness, as well.

Feeding children is like a walking a tightrope. Having teachers interfere with my child’s lunch is not necessary. Feeding children who don’t have anything to eat, that’s common sense.

About Sharon M., MS RD

As a registered dietitian and a master gardener, I know the healing power of food. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than growing my own food. I have experience working in the public health field, including school districts. I have worked with pregnant moms, children, diabetics, and bariatric patients. I emphasis a plant-based, whole food diet. Yet, I appreciate the movement of eating sustainably, while hoping folks appreciate the bean as a source of protein. "To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld "Feeding is going well if both you and yor child are having a good time." -Ellyn Satter
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One Response to School Lunches: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. Tom says:

    Well said!

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