It didn’t take long for what appears to have been no more than a misunderstanding at a Hoke County elementary school to turn into a super-sized food fight.
The incident, which happened on Jan. 30, went viral when it made the Drudge Report, and Rush Limbaugh chimed in on his talk show.
G.L. Pridgen, a Republican who represents Hoke, Scotland and Robeson counties, has promised to ask tough questions, and two of the state’s U.S. House representatives sent a nasty letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates school lunches to make sure they meet minimum nutritional standards.
Here’s what happened: An agent with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child Development and Early Education was at West Hoke Elementary School and noticed the homemade lunch of 4-year-old girl. It included a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips and apple juice — a meal that we believe doesn’t reach the level of child abuse.
But something was missing nutritionally, although that hasn’t been disclosed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since the agent seized the child’s lunch and it was replaced it with chicken nuggets, the missing food item must have been animal fat.
We didn’t hear Limbaugh, but our guess is that he insisted this is Exhibit No. 5,116 of the federal government’s invasion of our liberties, and that he was indignant that federal officials would presume to know better than a mother what a child should be eating. Are we warm?
The rub is that sometimes the government does know best. It’s been demonstrated that a child who is nutritionally starved is more likely to struggle in the classroom, and school offers the government its only real opportunity to a manage what a child eats. That is why the USDA requires schools to provide lunches that include one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain and two servings of fruit or vegetables. An assistant superintendent of the Hoke school system said that protocol is for teachers who see a child’s homemade lunch that is lacking nutritionally to offer the child a missing food item, typically at no charge.
But the USDA agent on Jan. 30 obviously crossed a line, and in doing so brought scrutiny that has cast a well-intentioned initiative in a negative light.
There is always going to be tension where individual liberties end and government regulations begin, but this case should not be milked for more than it’s worth.
Know the difference.