When I heard a mom had been slapped with a $10 fine for packing a "poor" lunch for her kids, I had all sorts of ideas in my head about what a disaster that lunch bag must have been. Kristen Bartkiw must have filled the bag with candy, I figured, or maybe she was having a busy mom moment and threw empty lunch bags in her kids' backpack.
Turns out, I was wrong on both accounts. Bartkiw's kids got roast beef, carrots, and potatoes in their lunch, plus juice to wash it all down. Her kids' child care center decided that wasn't "balanced" enough, so they gave the kids Ritz crackers ... and they gave mom a bill.
Go ahead; scrape your jaw off the floor. I can wait.
Good, because my head is about to explode over this one.
Apparently the rules of the Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care dictate kids should have a milk product, a meat, a grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables to make sure the meal is "balanced." If the parents don't send everything on the list, the center will supplement, and Mom and/or Dad get charged.
The mom isn't mad because she actually helped draft the rules way back when.
Fine. She can pay her fine.
But that doesn't make these rules -- or similar rules that keep cropping up at schools and daycare centers -- any less ridiculous.
More From The Stir: School Has No Business Banning Candy From My Kid's Lunch
Folks, I'm all for providing little ones with nutritious meals. But doing that means looking at what kids are eating all day, not just at lunchtime. Schools and child centers need to remember as they craft their "rules on nutrition" that they're only one piece of a day-long puzzle. Parents are the ones who know what happens before and after.
I know I often base my kid's lunch on what I have planned for breakfast or dinner. She may get her fill of calcium at breakfast, for example, so I'll skip a lunchtime milk because she doesn't need the extra calories. Then again, she may have filled up on eggs and bacon at breakfast, so I'll opt for a yogurt at lunch instead of some more protein.
It's all give and take.
And it's important to recognize that because the kids aren't just internalizing the food in a literal sense (go ahead and chew on that thought for a second), but in a mental one too. They're learning from these meals how to make good choices about foods -- about nutrition, about hunger.
Tell kids that their meals have to meet some impossibly restrictive guidelines, and you aren't preparing them for much more than an eating disorder.
What kind of rules does your kids' school or daycare have about lunch?
Image via Randy Heinitz/Flickr