Preschooler's Homemade Lunch Replaced With Chicken Nuggets

Categories: Indigestion
Flickr user bookgrl

It's apparently not bad enough that the tomato sauce on a slice of pizza counts as a vegetable. It's not bad enough that we've now got people who grew up without eating vegetables having children who will never eat vegetables because their parents don't eat them.

No, now, a North Carolina 4-year-old's home-packed lunch was taken away for not meeting USDA nutritional guidelines and replaced with . . . wait for it . . . fried chicken nuggets.

The home-packed lunch had a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice. It was replaced with chicken nuggets by a state inspector at the West Hoke Elementary School who was policing children's lunchboxes in response to a state law that says that all lunches, whether school-made or homemade, are required to conform to the USDA's guidelines.

The girl's mother was charged $1.25 for this oh-so-healthy lunch.

And people say we're the nanny state?

Incidentally, my preschooler went to school today with a lunch I packed her that contains a turkey-and-mustard sandwich with pickles on baguette, a small handful of popcorn, a bag of sliced bell peppers, a bag of blueberries, and a box of apple juice--and the only time her lunch has ever been replaced with a school-made lunch was the time I accidentally packed her almond butter to dip celery sticks into.

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greasy chicken nuggets - mmmmm! So much healthier and more nutritious than a turkey and cheese sandwich. That school would be hearing from my lawyer 


Great post! Nonetheless, one or two quibbles:

Despite the misleading headline of the original piece that broke this story (, the child's home-prepared lunch was not replaced by a school lunch, but supplemented with it. Although it is not clear why the lunch inspectors deemed her home lunch inadequate, it was the child's mother's initial assumption that it was the (appalling, you would say) lack of a vegetable component. The mother does not pack vegetables for her child (unless you were counting the potato chips). An over-zealous lunch inspector may have tried to rectify that. Unfortunately, the program's good intentions backfired: when offered a complete school lunch in addition to her own, the child ate only the chicken nuggets, eschewing not only the lunch she brought, but also the milk, grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables included in the school lunch.

The mother was charged $1.25 for the lunch foisted upon her child, a decision being looked into by school officials. Of course, many children do not pay even that. Some children do not have $1.25, or home-packed lunches, or might have home-packed lunches comprised of horrible junk food. Clearly, the program's aim is to improve this situation. Quite possibly, many children and families benefit from this program. But, as with any public program aimed at helping the poor and underprivileged, it inevitably comes under attack by those who think we should literally not be concerned about the poor. These attacks usually center on individual misapplications of policy, because these are easy targets and red meat for the base. I would have thought a contributor to the OCW might have retained a sane perspective on this story, instead of joining with the torch-wielding peasants over at Faux News.

Also, people shouldn't be calling California - or any other state of the Union, a "nanny state", but rather a "nanny-state state". Right?

But great post!



What was wrong with the almond butter?


Dude I saw this on the UK's Mail Online this morning and thought about sending it over to you... The fact that it made the news in England is embarrassing! 

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Accounts differ, but still, if the problem was vegetables, why was the solution chicken nuggets?

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Nut-free school. But that policy is very clearly stated at the orientation.


Xor already addressed that point when he wrote, " the child's home-prepared lunch was not replaced by a school lunch, but supplemented with it... when offered a complete school lunch in addition to her own, the child ate only the chicken nuggets, eschewing not only the lunch she brought, but also the milk, grain, and the two servings of fruit or vegetables included in the school lunch."

Accounts differ because some people chose to sensationalize this story in order to attack the idea of programs aiding at-risk kids, even if it meant that most of the facts had to be distorted. If you had been willing to do a little bit of research, you would have discovered that:


1) the kid's home-packed lunch was never taken away; it was supplemented with the school's lunch.

2) the kid's home-packed was not replaced with just chicken nuggets; the kid was given a full lunch tray that contained chicken nuggets, milk, a fruit, and a vegetable.

3) there was no state inspector there to police school lunches; there was a researcher at the school assessing pre-schools on a comprehensive evaulation called the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised. But, that researcher had no authority or agency to order the child to get a healthier lunch.4) the mom was never charged for that lunch.

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education investigated this matter, and released a statement stating it, "“determined that no employee of DHHS, nor the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) or its contractors, instructed any child to replace or remove any meal items. Furthermore, it is not DHHS’ policy to inspect, go through or question any child about food items brought from home. The facts we have gathered confirm that no DHHS employee or contractor did this.”

The mother never said her daughter's lunch was replaced or even complained about the chicken nuggets. Instead, the mom was complaining about the school for supplementing her daughter's lunches with milk and vegetables because she was too poor to pay for that cost, even though she was never charged for that.

If this mother had been packing a lunch with only twinkies and coke or not even packing a lunch at all, should we be outraged if the school offers a child healthier options to supplement the home-packed lunch?

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