My four-year-old daughter Alana will be packing bread in her lunchbox tomorrow when she goes to preschool.  No, we haven’t gone over to the dark side, and no, she didn’t ask for it.  But she did bring home a note this afternoon that reads as follows:

Dear Parents:

Our STARS assessment is coming up.  As you might recall, a Meals Guidelines paper was included in your packet of information at the beginning of this school year.  Whether fairly or not, we are evaluated and rated on the lunches that you send in for your children.

Each child MUST have 3/4 cup of milk, whether they drink it or not.

Each child MUST have two servings of fruits or vegetables:
100% fruit juice counts as one serving
Fruit cup or applesauce counts as one serving
Raisins count as one IF they equal 1/2 cup
Carrots count
Celery counts
Potato chips don’t count (nor do other chips)
Salad with dressing works also – but remember the fork!

Each child MUST have one serving of grain or bread:
1/2 slice of bread
1/4 cup of dry cereal
1/4 cup of pasta, noodles or grain
Peanut butter crackers

Each child MUST have one serving of meat or meat alternative:
1 1/2 oz. of meat or poultry
1 1/2 oz. of cheese
3/4 egg or 3/8 cup of cooked dry beans or peas
3/4 oz. of nuts and/or seeds
6 oz. of yogurt
3 tablespoons of peanut butter or other nut or seed butter

For snack time, please pack components from two of the four categories.

Alana attends preschool at a Methodist church in downtown Franklin.  It’s a private preschool, but evaluated by the state — which I’m guessing receives its marching orders from the federal government.  Perhaps it’s part of the No Child Left Without Grain program, or the No Parent Trusted to Make Proper Dietary Decisions Act.

Either way, the evaluation process is simultaneously laughable and appalling.  We’re actually going to have officials visiting the school to make sure every child is packing a government-approved lunch.  Why?  What is the rationale here?  We’re not talking about a lunch prepared and served by the school; this is an evaluation of the lunches sent to school by parents.  So apparently, the school is being judged on how well they’ve convined us to substitute the government’s dietary wisdom for our own.

That’s bad enough.  But worse, I could ensure that my daughter passes inspection by spreading three tablespoons of peanut butter on a slice of white bread and adding a box of fruit juice and a half-cup of raisins.  (Better not forget the milk, though.)  Yup … I could make the state happy by giving Alana a lunch guaranteed to send her blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride.

Conversely, I could screw up the school’s rankings by packing a lunch I believe is good for her … say, some meat and cheese and nuts, but no bread or fruit juice – in other words, the kind of lunch she usually eats.  I’m not comfortable having that kind of power.  Skip the carbs entirely, and I may inadvertently shut down the whole school.

When I first read the guidelines — shortly after my wife finished shaking her head and handed them to me — I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if we sent Alana to school with a salad but no fork.  I picture some state official realizing there’s no fork in the bag, then banging the heels of her boots together to spring a poison blade from one of the boot-tips and kicking a teacher while screaming, “Zere ees no fork vit dis salad!  Zis child has no intention of eating her green leafy vegetables!  You are attempting to circumvent zee guidelines!”

The groupings are simply laughable.  How exactly did fruits and vegetables all get lumped together?  Do the government nutrition nannys really believe celery and bananas provide anything close to the same nutrients and macronutrients?  Celery is nearly all water and fiber.  A medium banana, on the other hand, contains more than 100 calories, mostly from sugar.

Or let’s look at the “meat” group.  Sliced turkey breast is nearly all protein.  Cheese is mostly fat with some protein.  Peas provide a little bit of protein but are mostly starch.  The typical yogurt cups you’ll find in the grocery store are mostly sugar.  Yet all them count as “meat” in the evaluation.

I’m tempted to send to her school with a couple of celery stalks, a quarter-cup of dried noodles, three-quarters of an egg and big thermos of chocolate milk, just to see what would happen.  I’m even more tempted to write up a list of 95 reasons these nutrition guidelines are hogwash and nail the document to the church door. 

But of course, the church is just doing what they’ve been ordered to do by the government nutrition nannys.  So my wife will dutifully prepare Alana a lunchmeat sandwich and toss in the required fruits and vegetables, and the school will pass the all-important evaluation.  And then Alana will go back to eating the kind of lunch she prefers, at least until the next evaluation day.  I suspect the other parents will be doing the same.

Your tax dollars at work.  Ain’t it a beautiful sight to see?

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61 Responses to “School Lunch Inspection”
  1. Tom Naughton says:

    @gallier2 — Here’s a link to the French listing:

    http://www.programme-tv.com/television/29199786/Fat-head.html

    I’ll try to find out if it’s coming up again.

  2. TonyNZ says:

    @low-carber

    Denial is a river in egypt. (That doesn’t have the same effect written, read it aloud).

  3. Alex says:

    All this “must” language from the state is sounding very Orwellian to me. 1984 has arrived. You must love Big Brother. Ignorance is Strength. Freedom is Slavery. You will love Big Brother, especially at the end when he puts a bullet in you. You will love him at the final moment the bullet penetrates the brain. I love Big Brother.

    Big Brother is much better than Cats. I’m going to listen to him again and again …

  4. TonyNZ says:

    [rant]

    I think in response to Tom’s Vs. many of the posters on action that could be taken, I would think of it like this.

    You are actively involved in something that is not generally accepted by the public. You will take all the avenues that you think acceptable for getting your point across. In no case should it be acceptable, however, to turn a four year old child into a pariah for the cause. Therefore, in this case, it is better to make life easier for his daughter than to further his case against government nutrition guidelines.

    Sure, it is an outrage, but so is treating kids like that.

    I get helluva annoyed when I see young children holding placards at things like anti-gay or pro-gay rallies. Its like… “You aren’t even old enough to know whether you are gay or not!”

    Part of the reason Tom’s daughters are so well adjusted I believe, is that rational behaviour and thinking about diet are NORMAL in their household. By taking away that normality, it could only make things worse.

    [/rant]

    Good rant, and you accurately described my attitude. I’m not going to put my daughter or the nice folks who run the preschool in a difficult position. It’s not their battle.

  5. carber says:

    I loves my carbs! My experience with no-carb diets — severe nausea, extreme fatigue. My experience being vegan. Blood tests always right down the middle. Long live bread!

    Whatever works for ya.

  6. Valerie says:

    Maybe you could have a secret rebellion?

    Maybe give her low carb bread (buttered!) and slices of fatty meat and cheese. Then maybe you could pack her some half and half or heavy cream? Would they know the difference between that and milk if they don’t taste it themselves?(Now I’m imaging government workers coming into the school and eating the kid’s lunches while they cry in the background!)

    For fruits, well… you could go with maybe berries or cantaloupe. OH! She could pour the cream on her berries!

    She likes a sandwich now and then, so she took one. Just silly that they stated you MUST include grain.

  7. TonyNZ says:

    Give her an avocado to eat as fruit/veges. I often took them to school to eat as they were. It helps that our neighbour owned an avocado orchard and gave us literally boxes of the things, but avocado = win.

    Good idea. She likes them too.

  8. John says:

    The government mandate high carb/anti-meat diet is precisely why I have diabetes today.

  9. Michelle says:

    I echo the comments of many others here. This is totally retarded on so many levels. What difference does a one day evaluation make anyway? The parents who really need to improve their kids’ diets, who send their kids with gummy fruit “snacks”, chips, pb&j on white bread and a coke, can just do the same thing you are and go back to their bad old ways when it’s over. This is fraud, waste and abuse.

    That’s what my wife pointed out. Given the sugar-coated junk some kids bring to the school, the guidelines would be an improvement, but a meaningless one. It’s not going to change what the kids eat the other 364 days of the year.

  10. Jesrad says:

    Apparently there’s someone who would seriously need an inspection ASAP: the government itself. The meat served by the government in public schools’ restaurants is even lower in quality than anything you can get from any fast-food joint ( http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-12-08-school-lunch-standards_N.htm ). But note the USDA still pretends the meat measures up to commercial standards…

  11. Interested by stander says:

    So the gubmint is mandating proper foods? ya right…since when has the gubmint gotten anything right? Oop, big brother may be watching…Zieg Heil! Zieg Heil!

    Feed your daughter as you see fit, and if her regular physicals show her to be healthy, more power to you!

    I personally would force the issue and take this thing to court as well as alerting all the media outlets.

    To the Vegans and bread humpers…you eat what you want, but leave your opinions at the door. If your “diet” works for you then great!

    The Beatles nailed it long time ago -

    You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change the world
    You tell me that it’s evolution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change the world
    But when you talk about destruction
    Don’t you know that you can count me out
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    all right, all right

    You say you got a real solution
    Well, you know
    We’d all love to see the plan
    You ask me for a contribution
    Well, you know
    We’re doing what we can

    But when you want money
    for people with minds that hate
    All I can tell is brother you have to wait

    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    all right, all right
    Ah

    ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…

    You say you’ll change the constitution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change your head
    You tell me it’s the institution
    Well, you know
    You better free you mind instead
    But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
    You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    all right, all right
    all right, all right, all right
    all right, all right, all right

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