Here’s something you would never expect to see happen in preschool: One mother sent her 4-year-old daughter to school with a packed lunch. Leeza Pearson’s daughter Natalee came home later with a stern note and Oreos that she wasn’t allowed to eat.
According to Pearson, she was “lunch shamed” by the Children’s Academy of Aurora. The note sent home by a teacher with Natalee read, “Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a heavy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation.”
Pearson’s story is that she ran out of fruits and vegetables when packing Natalee’s lunch, so she gave her Oreos instead. Sounds pretty typical of a parent rushing out the door on the way to school, but does this mom even need an excuse?
I am a health nut, and even I have to say, “Aw, hell no” to this. As many angry parents in the comment section have pointed out, it is a parent’s right to send a child to school with a lunchbox full of Oreos if they want to. There have been times I have had my son on a somewhat extreme diet because of his eczema, just to see if we could give him any relief. If a school had complained about my “imbalanced” food choices, I would have been irate. And on the days in the future when I want to send my son to school with a special treat, I don’t expect any criticism to come back.
Pearson was mostly upset about the fact that Natalee was not allowed to eat the food in her lunch, as she told ABC News, “I think it is definitely over the top, especially because they told her she can’t eat what is in her lunch. They should have at least allowed her to eat her food and contacted me to explain the policy and tell me not to pack them again.”
Aurora Public Schools spokeswoman Patty Moon responded by saying that while a note like this is not “standard practice,” the school wants parents to be informed without it being punitive. Moon insists that the Children’s Academy tries to advocate healthy eating, but Pearson disagrees. Pearson provides the examples of candy brought to the classroom for an Easter celebration, as well as jellybean treats given in afterschool care.
Yes, that is certainly a mixed message. I can see where the school is coming from because I too believe that encouraging children to make healthy food choices is important. But this particular issue is a sticky one. There’s no telling what this mother has been feeding her daughter every day of the week, outside the classroom. Maybe this mom gives her daughter kale and free-range chicken every night for dinner and just sent Oreos to school in a pinch. The point is that you just don’t know. And a school making a judgment call based on one lunch is over the line.