Should schools decide what is included in the lunches parents send their children to school with? Many would say no, as it seems to overstep the school's boundaries. This story will ignite passionate opinions on both sides of the debate. A mother packed her daughter a seemingly healthy lunch, and it unexpectedly caused a full-scale controversy.
Leeza Pearson lives in Aurora, Colorado, a city of respect and acceptance. One Friday, her daughter Natalee came home from preschool hungry. Shocked, Leeza looked inside Natalee's lunchbox and found a note that made her quite angry.
Growing up in today's modern highly competitive society, Leeza is a mum that always wants the best for her daughter like every other mother. She sent Natalee to the Children's Academy & Childcare Center, a very popular and trusted preschool in Aurora. Natalee was excelling in school, and Leeza was very happy with the preschool, until that Friday, where things took a very odd and shameful turn.
Like many mothers of young kids, Leeza was often very busy. On a high-stress Friday morning, she didn't pack any fruit or vegetables into her daughter's lunch box. As a treat, Leeza added some Oreo cookies, some string cheese, plus a ham and cheese sandwich to complete the lunch. Little did she know, this small error would eventually result in a much bigger issue.
That day, Natalee came home complaining that she was hungry. Leeza then found a note, along with the Oreo cookies, which had remained uneaten in her daughter's lunch box. The text 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 healthy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it."
So furious was she about the school's dictat regarding what her daughter could and could not eat, Leeza shared the note online. Quickly, she received support from other parents as well as generating general outrage about the situation. One of her friends even summed up the incident as "ridiculous."
In an era of obesity, the Children's Academy was keeping a watchful eye on students' food and encouraged healthier lunches. Natalee's lunch loaded with carbs and sweets and with zero veggies, must have set off alarms amongst the staff. Additionally, studies have shown that healthy food does help kids learn more efficiently. For a preschool that aims to raise the bar in their education, seeing Natalee eating unhealthy, they were just trying to set her on the right track.
No parent wants to be accused of poisoning their child with bad food. The problem was that the school basically took things too far and made Leeza feel like a bad mother. She said she felt "shamed" and thought the school crossed the line by telling her what her daughter could or couldn't eat. "What the school thinks is healthy for her is not what I think is healthy for her," Leeza said. "She needs to eat what she's going to eat. That's between me and her and our doctor, not the school."
Leeza went further and said that if Natalee was overweight and waddling through the class hallways, it would be reasonable for the preschool to show some concern. However, her daughter was otherwise a healthy, thin and active girl. This made the accusations all the worse. "It's not like I was offering cookies to the entire class, and it's not like that was the only thing in her lunch," Leeza claimed.
To add fuel to the fire, Leeza alleged that the meals that kids get in school aren’t necessarily as healthy as the school would have you believe. The meat they serve will taste rubbery and some other foods have a nasty texture. The school also commonly handed out candy, making their actions hypocritical. "They say I can't decide what to feed her, but then they sometimes feed her junk food," Leeza complained.
Following the controversy of feeding her daughter unhealthy cream-filled Oreo chocolate cookies, Leeza defended her decision, saying "We're not the parents that send junk food every day. She has a full, healthy lunch. And this was Friday! Why not give her a special treat?”
At this point, the Children's Academy's director Brenda Dean said to the media that she was looking into the note and found it was not in accordance with school policy. Therefore, the note should not have been sent to a parent, especially in a manner that would put the parent in a situation that no one would want to experience.
If you are picturing a scene where little Natalee's lunch was ripped from her grasp and tossed in the trash, then you got the whole story wrong. In fact, nobody took her lunch and left her to starve for the rest of the day. Aurora Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Patti Moon said Natalee had actually been given another snack, so she did not have to go home hungry.
Natalee's experience of going home hungry meant the little girl took a stubborn stance and refused to eat the alternative snack the preschool offered her. The actual picture is more likely that Natalee was just sitting amidst more than 100 children who are having lunch, eating nothing. She might have been determined to go through the day hungry, rather than giving the school staff satisfaction.
In the end, the school did indeed reevaluate its stance and will certainly not be sending any more notes to parents. The feud between Leeza and the preschool was finally wrapped up when Natalee started elementary school. However, the issue definitely shone a light on the role public schools should have in what students can and cannot eat for lunch. One has to think over what the schools and parents learned from the situation.