- Politics and Social Issues
The issue of school lunch box inspections
The reach of the federal and state government has gone too far. In North Carolina a state employee was inspecting lunches brought from home to determine if they meet USDA standards. This is a waste of taxpayer money. USDA guidelines are just guidelines. They do not have the force of law. The fact that a state employee removed a portion of the lunch and replaced it with a meal provided by the school is an invasion into individual privacy. In some respects it amounts to stealing a child’s lunch or part of it and substituting something else. The real problem is the school sent a bill home for the lunch which was forced on the child half of which was not eaten.
It is also clear that the parents or in this case the mother of the child did not want to participate in the school lunch program. To charge a parent for something they did not ask for is like a company sending you a product who did not order and expecting you to pay for it when the bill is received.
School lunch programs are a good idea in trying to provide a healthy meal for those who want to pay the price. It is required as a participant of the federal school lunch program that schools provide lunches which meet USDA standards. The question to be asked in this type of situation is what authority exists for a state employee to inspect lunches brought from home to determine if they meet healthy standards established by the USDA. The authority only applies to lunches provided by the school in validating they meet the standards recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No legal right exists or should exist to give government employees to determine the acceptable content of lunches not purchased through school cafeterias.
This is a clear cut overreach of government involvement into the private lives of its citizens. The simple fact is clear in that one meal which may or may not meet food standards established does not mean balanced meals are not provided through the home environment. Government officials at all levels need to be sure before embarking on any inspection that the authority clearly exists within the laws they are to enforce. Granted there may be some laws that are vague in terms of authority or responsibility but clearly in the school lunch inspection program it is not applicable to private lunches brought to school.
Schools and parents across the country need to take notice in this type of government intrusion. Parents have the right to choose to purchase a school lunch or to send a lunch with their child or children to eat during a school lunch period. Government employees in other states who may conduct such inspections should be put on notice that this kind of activity is unacceptable. It is unknown at this time if any action will be taken with regards to the issue brought forth by inspecting a lunch box but some action clearly needs to be taken. Government inspections are a normal activity in monitoring the compliance of rules or regulations put in place but their applicability needs to be clearly defined.
The details of the issue involved in challenging the content of lunches brought from home involve a greater principle which seems to be taking place in the government. More and more it seems government is injecting itself into our private lives some with authority and some without. Our individual privacy is important. While some may feel that government inspecting brought from home lunches may have some purpose applying the rules to private lunches lacks the authority required to remove any or part of a lunch and replace it with something parents did not choose to purchase. The inspection amounts to an opinion which may or may not agree with the guidelines established. In terms of government opinions they occur each day and they may or may not agree with the laws or rules with which they are being applied. In this instance the packaged lunch is not in violation of any law.