Manitoba Mother Fined for “Unbalanced” Lunch by Daycare
Kristen Bartkiw packed a meal consisting of leftover roast beef, carrots, potatoes, an orange and milk. The mother of three was shocked when 5 year old Logan and 3 year old Natalie, returned home with a note from the daycare staff informing her that she had failed to provide a healthy lunch by leaving out grains- and that her children’s lunch was supplemented with Ritz crackers.
Kristen was fined and parents were informed that if they failed to provide children with a “balanced meal” as defined by the Canadian food guide, they would receive a penalty of $5 per child.
Kristen, who is a teacher and a member of the daycare board who made the decision to start fining parents says she doesn’t blame the daycare.
The Manitoba Early Learning and Child Care regulations indicate that daycares must ensure that children are given a milk product, a meat, a grain and two servings of fruit and vegetables in their lunch. If a child is missing a food group, the daycare must provide a supplement.
Bartkiw explains the decision to charge a fine:
We chose to do it as a more of a deterrent, because parents were sending their children a lunch with only a pizza pop.
She admits being frustrating with unrealistic guidelines that parents are forced to follow. She told CTV Winnipeg:
It was just frustrating that we have to keep fighting this battle when you’re sending your kids perfectly good food but it doesn’t meet this really specific, kind of nit-picky requirements. I think that I’m doing everything by the books and it was like, ‘Oh come on, seriously?’
A representative from the Manitoba government said that while it is important for parents pack healthy lunches for their children, fining parents for failing to provide a particular food group is not the best way to follow guidelines – and I agree.
Is this kind of enforcement appropriate? Is it effective? Yes, some parents neglect to make the right choices for their children, but who decides what is most nutritional? For instance, there is evidence to challenge the nutritional benefits of grains – you may prefer to focus on fruits, vegetable and protein in some or most of your child’s meals. Why were the children given processed crackers to supplement their lunches? Especially when a serving of Ritz crackers contains 6.5g of fat – nearly half of which is saturated.
To highlight how ridiculous this was, Kristen argues she could have sent her kids to daycare with “microwave Kraft Dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a Cheestring, and a juice box,” and it would have been met with approval by the MCCA.
The daycare in question has since dropped the ridiculous policy and adopted a hot lunch program – of which Kristen says she approves.
What do you think? Did they cross a line? How can parents be encouraged to promote healthy food options?