Did you hear the one about the North Carolina preschool child who was traumatized? One of President Obama's Nazi lunch inspectors took away her lunch, forced her to eat chicken nuggets, sent her home because her lunch was not good enough, charged her mother money for a lunch provided, and took away the rights of every parent in America to determine what his children should eat. True story. I read it all over the Internet today.


If any of that sounds ridiculous, you’re right in thinking so. I’ve been taking a look at the different news reports and blog posts dealing with an incident that took place at a North Carolina preschool at the end of January, and they’re all over the place on what they’re reporting. After weeding through everything, here’s what seems to have happened:


A child brought her lunch to school. The lunch consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich on white whole wheat bread, a banana, potato chips and apple juice. Someone decided the lunch wasn’t up to snuff and gave her a school lunch, in addition. Reports say she ate three nuggets from the school lunch, threw the rest away, and took her packed lunch home.


Initial reports, like this one from Carolina Journal, said that a “state inspector” was looking at lunches and forced “preschoolers to purchase cafeteria food instead.” It doesn’t look as if it was actually a state inspector and it was only one child. More recent reports identify the person as a “North Carolina education staff member conducting a review of the child care center.”


Apparently, the school says it apologized to the parent who packed the lunch — which was just fine, even in keeping with USDA guidelines — and didn’t require the mother to pay the $1.25 charge that may or may not have been asked for in the first place.


Obviously, this shouldn’t have happened. Someone was over zealous or misinformed or worried about how things looked. It was an isolated incident, and there is no evidence that the government is sending in inspectors to check bagged lunches to make sure they meet USDA guidelines. 


Still, as the story has spread over the past 24 hours, headlines would have us think otherwise. Take a look at some of these headlines, along with my snarky commentary.



Those are just a few of the headlines that are misleading, sensational, and meant to get people upset. But here’s the thing. We have a real problem with school meals in our country. And there are many people who are working hard to figure out what to do about it. From Michelle Obama to Jamie Oliver to Mrs. Q to the superintendent of my school district, people are making real changes and having real discussions. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it can happen if we don’t let stories about school lunch Nazis get in the way.


This sensationalism over one incident hurts the discussions and changes that are happening. It makes some people who are wary of government intervention even more wary and closes their minds to dealing with the real issues. It doesn’t even look like it was government intervention. And, even if it turns out that the one person who made the decision to give the girl a school lunch did work for the government, it’s still not intervention based on any government guidelines or laws. It’s one misguided employee’s judgment.


Let’s focus on what’s really going on with food in schools, and how to improve school meals, instead of creating a national uproar over an isolated incident. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Does the government really care what's in your child's bag lunch?
Sensational headlines and varying reports about a North Carolina school lunch incident would have us think so.