Your homemade lunch sucks! Eat some nuggets!

It’s a stock photo, but aside from the nuggets and the chocolate milk this lunch looks good to me — there’s fresh fruit and raw veggies! (photo credit)

I’m sure many of you have already heard about the story of how the a child’s packed lunch was deemed “unhealthy” and the student was given a chicken nugget lunch instead. [Further reading: Preschooler’s homemade lunch replaced with nuggets]

The packed lunch in question consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, chips, and an apple juice. I guess the objection was that there was no vegetable. Um, really? If the USDA considers fries and tater tots as veggies, then why can’t we call it even and say chips are the veggie? So you want to have your cake and eat it too, huh USDA?

Let’s get real. The lunch that the mom packed for her daughter was actually pretty darn good. I pack my son’s lunch and even though I’ve never put potato chips in his lunch, I’ve included tortilla chips and just the other day I put “falafel chips” in his lunch (got them at Trader Joe’s and they are delish). My son eats potato chips at home sometimes. Hey, I love them with a sandwich every now and then. Granted, I buy *real* potato chips — potatoes, oil, salt are the ingredients. It’s practically a whole food, folks. (Insert sarcasm here). Parents should be allowed to pack lunches for their children. I think it’s a right.

I don’t want to go there with the nuggets. We know they aren’t real food. They don’t pass my one question test: Can you make the food in your kitchen? No, you can’t. You can’t process chicken into some kind of weird, pink foam, bloop it out, bread it, and then fry it in the cheapest oil you can find. Yes, you can make homemade chicken nuggets for your kids (cut up chicken, batter it, and then fry it in olive oil), which while they don’t have the spongy texture of a factory-made nugget that many kids have learned to expect, real homemade nuggets are much better for growing kids.

Let’s agree to make it a rule not to force nuggets on kids who come to school with an adequate lunch. You know, I have seen some atrocious packed lunches (a banana and flavored water, anyone?) and I get that staff members want kids to eat balanced meals. But let’s not get overzealous!


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56 thoughts on “Your homemade lunch sucks! Eat some nuggets!

  1. I would so upset if that happened to my daughter! PLUS make me pay for the horrible meal that she wouldn’t eat… so wrong in many ways. I agree if fries are a vegetable so can chips. Over stepping

  2. We can thank first lady Obama for this jack boot treatment of children, with her eat what I say while I eat what I want attitude (she crows about eating french fries). What next, checking work place lunch rooms? Maybe checking how we feed our pets?

    Why doesn’t she correct her husband when he pigs out on junk food in public?

    By the way remember that so called garden at the white house that produced food overnight and in huge farm quantities? Hum, were those late night trans-planters of ready to harvest produce — green card holders or were they illegal alien farm laborers? Anyway if the economy is so bad where did the money come from to pay the food cops?

    All I say is that they will have to pry my cold dead hands off my pogey bait (junk food) if they want to take my lunch bag for inspection.

    1. She was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last month, showing him “healthy” food choices… she showed pizza with veggies on it, deep-fried sweet potato fries dunked in ketchup, and apple slices dunked in honey. I think her sense of what is “healthy” is dilluded.

      1. You do realize the person who made this decision works for a state and goes by the state’s laws, correct? Federal has nothing to do with it.

        Also, every food is fine in moderation.

    2. The preschool program where this happened is a state run program. The inspector who made the decision to take the home packed lunch and replace it will the school meal was a state inspector. It was wrong on every level, and there would be hell to pay if it ever happened to my child.

      However, tell me how Michelle Obama had anything to do with this? It was the result of an overzealous, control freak STATE inspector. I’m fairly certain Michelle Obama does not know this person, nor was she there in person to make the decision.

      Nice political rant that was totally off topic.

      1. Bitter? No, but I have learned that I have to use very simple words when discussing issues with fans of Fox News and hate radio.

    3. Wow, you are literally the most unintelligent person I have seen post a remark anywhere in a long, long time. Unreal.

  3. What a ghastly story. I would hazard a guess though, that the childcare worker was just uneducated and genuinely thought nuggets were somehow healthy. They’re not of course, but it amazes me how many people think they are. Sad sad sad.

  4. True, if fries and tater tots are veggies, so is a chip. The problem I have is that these are young kids. That little girl probably went home confused as to why she was denied a banana and turkey cheese sandwich. Kids who were around her included witnessed this too. A month ago at my 4 year olds school, I packed some cheese in my daughters lunch. Another kid, a vegan, told my daughter it was a bad for you food. It confused her and it took her some time before she truly accepted it back into her diet. (note, i support vegan diets but do not implement them in our family) To me, this is a prime example that the government needs be offering true healthy meals. This person just taught a bunch of kids that nuggets are healthy.

    1. “And to be clear, the big bad USDA wasn’t involved. It appears to have been a state employee misinterpreting their guidelines.”

      Thank you. I feel like Sarah made a big leap in blaming this individual incident on the USDA.

      I do agree this situation was ridiculous. Poor kid.

    2. You are forgetting you are commenting to people who think a kid shouldn’t even get to look at a piece of candy unless it’s Halloween and then only one.

  5. a quote from the article: “When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones,” the Journal reports.

    The quote says “suppliment them” not “replace them”. Why didn’t they just give her a vegetable? Her lunch had everything except that, right? Seems like a waste of food to throw her lunch away and give her something that she’s not going to eat at all (and it goes into the trash, too).

    I also find it odd and disturbing that there is such a job as a “lunch inspector”.

    1. That is exactly what I was thinking. “Supplement” is not the same as “replace.” I understand the intent behind this guideline, and, in general, support it. However, this seems to be more an issue of misinterpretation (on the part of the agent). Looks like these “state agents” need to be better educated on the guidelines they are supposed to be enforcing.

  6. This was wrong on so many levels!
    The school is saying they know better than the parents. What if the child had food allergies or intolerances? And that packed lunch was probably nutritionally equal to the school lunch (aside from the question of a missing vegetable, which according to news reports, the child did not eat anyway).

    While I have seen kids at my child’s school with less-than-optimal packed lunches (e.g. those pre-packaged “lunches”), I think the vast majority of parents who take the time to pack lunch do it with consideration for what their child will eat as well as nutrition.

  7. WEIRDEST QUOTE OF THE YEAR SO FAR (from a previous commenter above):
    “We can thank first lady Obama for this jack boot treatment of children”

    Wow! What do Mrs. Obama’s healthy recommendations have to do with this story? The commenter should turn off Fox News and get a life.

  8. So.. I was checking my son’s backpack this morning and found a note that we owe $ for daily fruit at lunch ($.50) a day or $2.50 a week for a fruit item that I am not providing daily in his lunch. No one asked me if it’s OK for him to have the fruit. I’m not even sure if it’s a piece of fruit ..or some horrible fruit cup with high fructose corn syrup. I get up early every day and make my son a nutritious lunch. He always has at least a tossed green salad and/or a veggie, plus a main dish. He drinks milk and eats fruit at home .. each day .. and is on a very healthy diet (whole food diet with NO processed foods) .. one that needs monitoring for excess fruit (half of his colon was removed right after it ruptured at birth .. too much fruit =’s loose bowels. Now I am fuming and sent a note to the teacher for a report about just why the food police are taking this on without my input or approval. They were even wondering why he was having so many trips to the bathroom???

  9. Isn’t it a beautiful duality. You promote mandated standards for lunches for everyone else’s child, yet if anyone tries to tell you your childs lunch must meet a standard, you flip out. Double standard much?

    1. The difference is, when a govt. is providing free lunch, they get to decide what’s in it.

      If you buy school lunch but resent the govt. deciding what’s in it, then stop buying it. No one’s forcing you to.

      If you bring lunch from home, you paid for it, you packed it, you’re all set.


      1. Only if the lunch fits the standards. You could be packing nothing but crap in the lunch. Should the government always trust you will pack a veggie, fruit, grain, protein? Most parent’s done – even Mrs Q rarely does.

        Also check to see if a story is true or not – this one is not.

  10. I read that story yesterday and it is so ridiculous! I would be infuriated if someone did that to my child. Chicken nuggets are so processed and so disgusting it has no right to be called food. The child would have been much better off with the lunch provided by mom, even with the chips.

    I run a home preschool and some of the USDA approved foods are sad. Fries are considered a vegetable. Hot dogs, hamburgers, nuggets, and fish sticks are all approved protein sources – but they will not allow tofu or soy alternatives which have known health benefits. We are forced to serve milk to kids with lactose and dairy intolerances because we have to serve milk for each meal unless the child has a documented allergy. Which by the way sugary milks that have more sugar than soda are allowed to be served.

  11. Frack-
    I much agree. Tell the school lunch program to serve all of these healthy items, whole grains etc. But then let a parent have their “rights” too, and send a can of soda some cheetos, and a pb & J. Would they be against that meal? Take it away? I know a meal like the one mentioned happens every day.

    Where is the line drawn?

  12. I am a big-government “bleeding heart” liberal, and I strongly support well-funded public education.

    However, I also am a father who did several years of home schooling with my two sons years ago, and I strong;y defend the rights of parents to decide everything from home schooling, to their children’s nutrition, to vaccinations.

    Yes, parents should strongly speak out about all their concerns, but it is really strange to hyperventilate about Mrs. Obama and her very admirable health initiatives. Mrs. Obama is leading by example, and her efforts are encouraging more discussions about these issues. Good for her.

    1. If the food police infuriates parents and it is linked to the Mrs.Obama initiative, it will not help president Obama to be re-elected. Many people are as serious about their food as about their religion. I would be furious if were in the place of that parent.

  13. I would totally agree with you “Jim Purdy”. Government should not be telling us what to eat. I think Government should require nutrient labels etc, so we can be informed on what we eat.

    The comment about Mrs. Obama is referenced to requiring the school lunch program to follow every strict guidelines, but on the other hand allowing students to bring very unhealthy items to eat for school. Where is the line drawn?

    For the record, I think that parents should have the right to pack what they want in public education. I also think that the new USDA “Mrs Obama Championed” regulations are a stretch. Schools can serve all the “healthy” items, but if students don’t eat it what is the point. The fact is chicken nuggets, corn dogs, hamburgers, pizza DO belong in school lunch why? Because kids eat it, a well fed child is a happy child, and a child that can learn. It is unfortunate how much students throw away, mostly fruits and vegetables. LA school district tried “healthier” meals and then many schools had to empty their dumpsters an additional time that week. Students don’t want hummus, Quinoa, puffed rice etc, unless they eat that way at home. Which most don’t.

  14. This is actually happening in a lot of place… I send my child to school with his lunch… and in one or more occasion have been sent home with a bill for this exact reason. And in my eyes I pack him a healthy lunch.

  15. I wouldn’t be as hard on chocolate milk – sure there’s better things out there, but I’ve read multiple sources that recommend chocolate milk as an/the optimum post-workout drink, sodas don’t get that honor =)

  16. There seems to be some confusion about what actually happened here, and I don’t want to even get involved in that. If it was a child care worker who made this decision, however, I’d like to give some insight to what it can be like to be in that situation.
    I work for a program that follows not only State and Federal regulations, but also ITRS and cultural laws (the center is on a Native American Indian reservation). These regulations all interfere with each other (State requires that our diaper changing table be a certain height, but ITRS wants all the furniture to be below a certain height. ITRS wants us to have things hanging from the ceiling and windows, but the Fire Marshal forbids it… Etc.) We can’t please everyone and so we must sacrifice a lot of things.
    That said, our nutrition guidelines are a hot mess. Our menu is coded by green (“healthy” foods that you can eat as much as you want), yellow (“sometimes” foods), and red (unhealthy foods to be eaten in moderation). We’re supposed to have very few red foods a week, seeing mostly green on the menu.
    Seems all good- but baked smiley fries count as a green food, and apple juice can count as a fruit. If a classroom has food allergies, the entire class is excluded from that food- so, some classrooms don’t get any dairy other than their drinking milk because of lactose intolerances, etc.
    We’re in a very low income area, and we know that some of these kids only eat when they’re with us. Our kids aren’t able to bring their own food at all- we provide it all.
    That said, if we did receive packed lunches, I understand the confusion that one may face as a teacher if I had received correspondence from my management that stated that we had to make sure a child was eating a nutritious lunch. I understand that the lunch may have been nutritious in and of itself, but if the teacher was trying to meet regulations as she understood them (which is a totally different issue), then I understand that she may have been trying to meet standards in order to keep her job.
    Parents aren’t always forthcoming- for example, the commenter above who is upset the school is giving her son fruit. If the school had been informed of her son’s medical history and his intolerance of fruit, then she has more than enough reason to be upset. However, you can’t get mad at the school for trying to make sure your child eats a nutritionally balanced meal if you haven’t properly informed them of what’s going on.

    Ok, I think I’m done with my soapbox now…

  17. That’s pretty disturbing, it sounds like a healthy lunch why couldn’t they just take away the chips and give her a vegetable! I was horrified one day when I sat down to lunch with my 1st grader when I watched her classmate eat his lunch. It consisted of capri sun, oreos, fruit by the foot, cheetos, cheese crackers and candy! I wish someone had confiscated that mess, there wasn’t even a sandwich.

  18. Okay, I finally did a little fact checking, and it confirmed my earlier guess that the right-wing paranoids at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News were pushing this conspiracy theory about federal government “food police”:

    “Stand up, America. Tell me what you think of the government employing “food police” to make these decisions in our children’s schools.”

    As I said before, Faux “News” spreads this federal conspiracy nonsense, and then, when a commercial comes on, the viewers rush to the internet to say something stupid.

  19. Actually frying with olive oil is same if not less healthy as with for ex. sunflower oil.

    Types of olive oils:

    virgin/extra virgin olive oil – very good but it’s qualities disappear when heated
    olive oil – usually quite bad oil

    Do some research and you will find out.

  20. My kids are in middle & high school now but when my oldest was in 2nd grade we were at the park on early-release day with a big group of moms & kids. I saw the PTO president’s kid (we were sitting together) pull out a plastic container full of round Cheetohs (made to be poured out like a drink into your mouth) and a vacuum-packed package of sliced pepperoni for lunch. I forgot what he had to drink but I’m sure it wasn’t milk.

    We live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Orange County, CA. The mother is known as a character and the rest of us moms sat in silence with our mouths open. Over the years she has improved her kids’ lunches but that was a stunner. Anyway, it never occurred to me until then that a mother would even think to feed her 7-year old anything like that.

  21. Mrs. Q, now that you have been provided with links regarding the true story, will you please update your post? There are enough REAL problems with school lunches and children’s nutrition, so we shouldn’t get distracted by made-up and exaggerated stories.

    1. Looking over the links provided by other commenters, I don’t see the need for me to update the post. The girl’s lunch was replaced with a chicken nugget lunch and the student’s homemade lunch was not eaten. I didn’t identify who did it, but I think most people know that it wasn’t some kind of agent. It was a very bizarre, non-incident though, in the end! Thanks for sharing your feelings with me!

  22. I just started reading your blogs, and I’m devouring your posts (pun half-intended). I started culinary school last month, and for our food ethics class we have to do a presentation on 1 issue in our food system today. For my presentation, I will be doing school lunches, and needless to say I will be quoting you and your blog quite a bit.

    I just want to say thank you for doing this blog. When I was in elementary, I swore to myself that some day I would be an activist and expose how school lunches were. No one believed that my throat infections were due to the yellow spots in my chicken patty sandwich, and that a couple of my tastebuds turned purple about 45 minutes after eating school lunch. The biggest problem is that no one believes the children when they say how bad the food is, assuming “kids don’t understand flavor or nutrition.” It’s about time someone stood up for the little folk out there.

  23. I would agree with Susan, updating the post, by not doing so is simply sensationalism. Kind of like most of this blog is…

    1. Tell me exactly what you think I should change and I’ll consider it. I don’t think I’m posting anything that’s totally off.

  24. Mrs Q:

    You reference the USDA as if they took away this child’s meal. It wasn’t the USDA, it was a misguided teacher/aide. The USDA isn’t having their cake and eating too as you state.

    “The packed lunch in question consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, chips, and an apple juice. I guess the objection was that there was no vegetable. Um, really? If the USDA considers fries and tater tots as veggies, then why can’t we call it even and say chips are the veggie? So you want to have your cake and eat it too, huh USDA?”

    1. If I recall correctly, the child was only asked to go pick up a veggie or fruit item to complete their lunch……Mrs Q won’t update her post even after many postings of sources proving her theory is off.

  25. Give Mrs Q a break. She started a lively discussion by citing a Fox News story, and numerous commenters here have already corrected the original flawed story. Mrs Q doesn’t need to repeat the same things everybody has said.

    My only criticism of Mrs Q would relate to the fact that she originally gave any credibility at all to anything from the nutcakes and fake journalists at Fox News. But, that’s just me; as an ex-reporter, I find Fox News and their friends on hate radio to be the most ludicrous folks around.

  26. Yawn. All the name calling makes me bored. And I don’t like being bored. I did not read the story or the other versions of the story. I will say this: if the federal government regulations (as one source stated) are so contradictory or confusing that childcare professionals can’t figure it out, how can parents (or really, anyone else) figure it out? Maybe it would be best to step back, undo all of the recent food-related legislation, and then streamline it…instead of…on this date, this will disappear. On this date, this will be unacceptable. I can’t remember if the love-a-thon about the FDA and the USDA was on this site or the lunch tray, but remember the FDA is the reason that people crossing the US/Canadian border get fined extravagantly for bringing across chocolate eggs that have a toy inside them (a non-food item inside a food item, is how the law reads). I really can’t be in favor of any organization (governmental or otherwise) who cottons to such…stupidity…is I guess the best word. I was recently trying to explain to my students when different aspects of the food lunches, candy sales, concession sales at school, and concession sales at games were going to end (by the federal legislation), and I’m confused. I’m confused to the point that I may have confused my students. So, to blame the “confused” school worker rather than the federal bureaucratic red tape confusion is a bit…off.

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