Food regulation gone too far

Lyndsie Yamrus, Assistant Opinion Editor

Within the last few years, health news articles regarding childhood obesity have increased tremendously. The problem is now being referred to as a nationwide epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and by 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, and the numbers are growing.

It is without a doubt true that American children are growing in size. With more than 17% of children and adolescents being overweight or obese in the US, restrictions are an absolute must. The government had the right idea in 2004, passing the Prevention of Childhood Act that aimed to coordinate Federal policies and activities in hopes of lowering obesity in homes, schools and in the community, according to congress. Some states chose to advance with their own restrictions such as required physical education for grades K-12 and the prohibition of sugar-sweetened drinks in vending machines. These restrictions and requirements are perfectly acceptable, and as unappealing as gym class in the middle of the day may sound, it’s necessary.

But how much is too much?

A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School was recently forced by a state inspector to put her home-packed lunch away and eat a school-provided meal because her lunch did not meet United States Department of Agriculture standards. That day, the four-year-old girl’s mother had packed her a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, a bag of chips, and apple juice: a perfectly reasonable meal.

When I was young, I vaguely remember eating junk foods like Fruit Roll-Ups, Gushers, and Smartfood brand popcorn. The girl’s lunchbox had most of the essentials, including meat, dairy, fruit, and grains. They must have denied the meal due to the lack of vegetables and substitution of the salty potato chips.

The mother of the child explained that the girl was a picky-eater, and vegetables were never included in her lunch because she ensures that her child gets them at home.

Picky four year olds don’t care about national food guidelines, obviously.

To make matters worse, the girl was then given a school lunch in which she ate only three chicken nuggets and ignored the rest of the food on the tray out of pickiness.

Let’s talk about this. Are three chicken nuggets really more nutritious than the home-packed lunch described in this article? And preschool caretakers actually sat around and watched this young girl avoid her lunch? They couldn’t have just given it back to her and advised her mother to pack more acceptable lunches in the future? Nutritionally speaking, 60% of a chicken nugget is fat, whereas a turkey and cheese sandwich is around 40%, according to various nutrition fact websites. Plus, chicken nuggets are deep fried! Talk about healthy!

With this, West Hoke Elementary mandated that the mother pay for the school meal forced upon her child.

Now I know if I were the parent in this situation, I would be extremely bothered by this. When it comes to childhood obesity in America, I am all for moderate food regulations and the addition of daily physical activity in schools. However, lunch box searching and seizing just crosses the line completely, especially when it comes to preschoolers. They’re three and four years old. They don’t understand.