School is more than just a place for learning. When we send our kids off to solve equations and practice spelling, we also expect them to be cared for, listened to, and looked after. It is a teacher’s job to ensure that all children in their care are treated equally and provided with whatever they need to be successful.
So while it may seem trivial, lunch is actually a very important part of the school day. This is why one Colorado mom was so distressed when her young daughter came home complaining of being hungry. Her teacher hadn’t allowed her to eat her lunch that day — and when she found out why, things became even more contentious.
Leeza Pearson and her daughter Natalee lived out a peaceful existence in the quiet suburb of Aurora, Colorado. They were always happy to have each other, but recently things had been going even better than usual.
This is because Leeza was close to earning her degree, and little Natalee had recently been accepted into a prestigious preschool, Aurora’s Children Academy. Soon, however, things would take a turn for the worse.
Facebook – Leeza Angela
It started out as a typical Friday morning. Leeza was packing Natalee’s lunch, when she realized something: they were all out of fruits and veggies. She was forced to skip out on the greens, but obviously added other snacks to make up for it.
Inside Natalee’s lunchbox, Leeza put a ham and cheese sandwich, string cheese, and one more thing: Natalee’s favorite snack cookie, Oreos. Then, she sent her daughter off to school.
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Leeza went about her day normally, completing errands and household chores as well as catching up on some work. However when 4 year-old Natalee got home from school, the young mom would be in for an awful surprise.
Facebook – Leeza Angela
To her great confusion, when Natalee got off the bus, she immediately had a strange complaint: she was hungry. Leeza couldn’t fathom why this would be, given that she had packed a pretty substantial lunch for the little girl just that morning.
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Still searching for answers, Leeza decided to check her daughter’s lunchbox, wondering if she would be able to find any clues as to why the 4 year-old’s stomach was grumbling.
When she opened the lunchbox, she was startled to find two odd things inside. For one, the Oreos were still there, unopened and obviously uneaten. Beside them, there was something even stranger: a note. Leeza began to read.
The letter 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.”
Leeza couldn’t believe what she was reading. The note continued: “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.”
The mother was outraged. She felt like she was being judged by the school for her parenting decisions. Who were they to tell her what was right for her child? And especially in such a confrontational manner…
In the midst of her anger, Leeza had an idea. She decided to post on social media about the incident, including a picture of the note. The responses were widespread and largely sympathetic to the young mom.
On the other hand, to play devil’s advocate, it is possible that the school administrators were only trying to help young Natalee. Afterall, healthy eating choices are something that should be on the minds of everyone these days, given current statistics.
For the past twenty years, childhood obesity has been on the rise. First Lady Michelle Obama even dedicated an entire campaign to promote more activity for kids. Maybe the school was simply trying to promote healthy eating.
Oreos, in particular — although they’re vegan — are pretty bad for young and growing bodies. With all the additives they contain, eating them consistently could increase the likelihood of developing heart disease or diabetes. Not great.
This is certainly true, but it’s also true that Natalee was a slender and active child. Should she really be so concerned with consuming one package of cookies at lunch? It almost seemed insulting.
Besides, Leeza had another valid point as to why the Oreos shouldn’t have been treated as a problem: it was Friday afterall, and she thought her daughter deserved a treat to celebrate the end of the school week.
She also went as far as to call the school hypocritical. Leeza pointed out that on more than one occasion the school itself had handed out junk food to her child. How was this any different?
Thankfully, Leeza received some small bit of validation when the school’s director formally denounced the actions of the teacher who had left the questionable note. She confirmed that this was against school policy, and never should have happened.
In case you were still worried, everyone’s okay now. Leeza eventually made peace with the school, and as for Natalee, she’s moved on to elementary school and can put all her cookie-related worries behind her.
As a parent, it’s hurtful to feel as though school officials are casting judgement on your parenting decisions. But perhaps even more alarming is feeling as though the school itself is putting your child’s health at risk.
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Virginia resident Beth Paulette lived a happy and peaceful life. She raised her sons in King and Queen County, where the boys also attended high school. Everything was business as usual… that is, until the day something strange started happening.
In 2015, out of nowhere, both of Beth’s sons both began coming down with absolutely awful headaches. These migraines went from happening only on occasion to being a daily nightmare. The boys would step off the school bus already in pain. Needless to say, Beth was deeply worried.
Beth started researching migraines. She learned that they can be caused by all sorts of things, including fatigue, stress, and dehydration. However, from what she could tell, none of these were to blame for her sons’ headaches.
That all changed when one of her sons sent her a text message from school. He included a photograph he’d taken of the food that the cafeteria was offering for lunch. Everything was so burnt it was practically unrecognizable!
When the boys returned home from school that day, Beth immediately asked them about their school’s lunch menu. She quickly learned that inedible offerings like the one they photographed earlier weren’t the exception—they were the rule.
Beth thought perhaps the poor food quality was causing her children’s illness. “They’re awful,” she said. “My two boys are coming home daily with migraines because they can’t eat what’s on their plates at school.”
According to the American Nutrition Association, something as simple as hunger can definitely cause migraines. Beth believed that the substandard food was preventing her children from getting the nutrition they needed each day.
Beth knew that low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia) is no laughing matter. In addition to causing severe migraines, low blood sugar means that your brain isn’t getting enough fuel to function the way it should. And the effects only get worse.
See, hypoglycemia can lead to dizziness, confusion, and, in very serious cases, death. But Beth wasn’t going to sit by and watch her kids’ school destroy their health.
Beth’s boys weren’t getting the necessary nutrition they needed to survive because of what was offered at school — so she decided to do something about it.
At first, Beth couldn’t find anyone to help her. That all changed when she finally enlisted the help of WTVR CBS 6, her local news affiliate. When they saw the photographs of the boys’ lunches, they were determined to help her make a real change.
The reporters began their own investigation, and they soon discovered that Beth and her boys weren’t the only ones with feelings about the terrible food being served at school. “It looked so unappetizing I could not bring myself to try it at all,” said another student, Precious Jackson.
It was critical that this problem was solved. In addition to causing migraines, hunger in students can make it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to concentrate and do to their best in the classroom. This food was hurting the students’ futures.
In order to bring better food into the cafeteria, the reporters had to speak with Dr. Stanley Jones. As the superintendent of King and Queen County Schools, it was Dr. Jones’s responsibility to make sure that the students were offered nutritious—and edible—meals.
When Dr. Jones was shown the photos of the terrible food, he was disgusted—but not surprised. He let the news team know that the head of the kitchen was suspended after several other complaints were filed. “If an employee is suspended, generally, it’s going to be related to performance,” he added.
However, the suspended employee in question, Suzanne Gilbertson, had her own take on the matter. “My cafeteria employees have always been told if you’re not going to eat it don’t serve it to the students,” she said.
Suzanne went on to say that, when she was suspended, she wasn’t even managing the high school cafeteria. She said that Dr. Jones hired someone new to do that, and this new employee definitely didn’t have the experience required. She told Dr. Jones she was concerned, and she claimed he simply ignored her.
In fact, when she kept questioning new issues, Suzanne said Dr. Jones verbally slapped her down. “I was advised that these employees, they do not report to me, as they report to human resources and the superintendent,” she revealed.
When asked to comment, Dr. Jones said that it was up to the cafeteria team to work together to best serve the children. With that in mind, he vowed that he would make sure that the kids were no longer served food that they could not eat.
Thanks to the hard work of one mom and a team of news reporters, the kids will finally have the food they need to get through each day! But for others, the quality of the food wasn’t the problem.
See, Ryan Kyote seems like your average third grader: he enjoys cooking with his mom, spending time with his friends, and playing sports. But recently, Ryan made a big choice that got some serious national attention.
See, Ryan’s not afraid to try new things and take a big risk from time to time. He even joined the Napa Valley Ballet Academy! So when Ryan learned something troubling about some of his classmates, he took action.
It all started when Ryan saw a news report about a girl who was denied a school lunch because her parents hadn’t paid off the entire lunch debt. That didn’t sit so well with him.
Ryan’s mom Kylie remembered what he told her then: “He said, ‘Nobody should have to buy their lunch at school. We should just have lunch together, because we’re friends and that’s what we do.'”
So Kylie called up his school to figure out what their policy was for students whose families’ couldn’t afford their school lunches. The answer took her by surprise.
“Unbeknownst to the parents, they get a bill sent home to them,” said Kylie. “I mean, imagine a 5-year-old coming home with a bill in their backpack for $500.” Ryan wouldn’t stand for that.
Ryan wanted to know how much students in his own class owed in school lunch debt. In his class, kids owed $74.50, but in the entire school district, there was an outstanding balance of over $20,000! Families were struggling, so Ryan made a bold choice.
He went right up to his room, collected all his hard-earned allowance money from the past six months and told his mother he wanted to pay off the $74.50 of debt for the kids in his class. Kylie was stunned.
“He used his money to pay the debt, and the office was really confused about what was going on,” Kylie remembered. “We explained the story and they happily took the donation.”
“He told the school secretary, ‘Can you please tell my friends’ families that they don’t owe any money for lunch,'” Kylie said. ” School officials shared her amazement.
In fact, the principal of Ryan’s school was impressed with his desire to help his classmates. “It’s a wonderful way of thinking about other people,” said Principal Amye Scott. “I’m proud to have him as a student.” Still, Kylie knew his donation would come with complications.
Kylie herself was so floored by Ryan’s selflessness that she nearly cried! But even though she was enormously proud of her son, Ryan didn’t want anyone to know about the gesture in case they felt ashamed.
Ryan preferred to remain anonymous, but Kylie wanted everyone to know just how thoughtful her son was. She posted about Ryan’s gesture on social media and local news quickly picked up the story. In just days, it was a viral sensation.
While he’s happy about the positive response, Ryan knows there’s more work to be done. Many critics pointed out that while gestures like Ryan’s are touching, it’s a result of a larger problem that’s leaving students in debt in the first place.
The problem has gotten a lot of national attention recently, like in the Warwick Public School District where kids aren’t allowed a hot lunch if they’ve accrued debt. But, much like Ryan, one woman decided to take action.
Angelica Penta is a parent in the district and was tired of kids being shamed for not being able to afford a school lunch and decided to do something. She got to work and raised over $4,000 to pay off the debts, but when she got to the school, she was met with a surprise.
Unlike in Ryan’s case, Angelica’s donation was denied. She was astounded by the school’s callousness: “There is no need for any child to be denied a hot lunch,” she wrote. “We never know a child’s or their families’ situation, everyone struggles at some point.”
Once the news got wind of what was happening, the story blew up online — even the CEO of Chobani issued a statement! The school quickly reversed their policy, but Ryan knows that’s only a small part of the problem.
Thankfully, because Ryan made these students’ voices heard, politicians started to take notice. Senator Tina Smith and Representative Ilhan Omar even introduced a bill that would make it illegal to shame students for accruing school lunch debt!
Ryan knows the fight has just begun and is hopeful for the future. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, look at what you can do.”