It's quite possible that the single most ridiculous school lunch policy on the planet comes courtesy of a strange interpretation of the Canadian province of Manitoba's Government Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations.
Apparently if a child's lunch is deemed "unbalanced", where "balance" refers to ensuring that a lunch conforms to the proportions of food groups as laid out by Canada's awful Food Guide, then that child's lunch is "supplemented", and their parent is fined.
Unbalanced lunches are subject to supplementation and a fine of CDN$5 (US$4.80) per "missing item" per child.
Kristen Bartkiw received just such a fine under last December after she did not send any "grains" with the leftover homemade roast beef, potatoes, carrots and an orange.
As Kristen writes, had she sent along lunches consisting of, "microwave Kraft Dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a Cheestring, and a juice box" those lunches would have met the approval of the policy. But her whole food, homemade lunches? They lacked Ritz Crackers.
"I'm not against Ritz crackers on principle," she said. "To have them once in a while is not the end of the world. But it's just the idea that, according to their regulations, and this comes from the Canada Food Guide, Ritz crackers are considered a grain and the Canada Food Guide doesn't really distinguish between natural, real foods and heavily processed foods like crackers."
Bartkiw said the province requires licensed child care centres serving a child's meal to include at least one serving of grains, milk products, meat, and fruits and vegetables, or alternatives, in accordance with the Canada Food Guide.
Some of the less favorable ingredients in Ritz Crackers include soybean oil, hydrogentated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin and color. All of the above ingredients are also genetically modified.
Yet Manitoba's Early Learning and Child Care curriculum emphasizes:
"There is encouraging evidence that good nutrition, nurturing and responsive caregiving in the first years of life, linked with good early child development programs, improve the outcomes for all children's learning, behaviour, and physical and mental health throughout life"
Apparently Ritz Crackers are a part of that equation.
Bartkiw said much of the problem lies with the food guide itself.
"It's really challenging and there's a lot of misinformation out there about what's considered a healthy food," she said. "And so it's really hard for parents to distinguish and the Canada Food Guide should be giving parents better guidelines, and it's really not."
Please contact the Manitoba's Government Early Learning and Child Care. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them directly (204) 945-0776.