Sandwich. Fruit. Carb-heavy snack. Juice box. As a parent, prepping your child's school lunch is an important task every morning. You make sure everything you put into that lunchbox will get them through the day feeling alert and satisfied. They rely on you for dietary guidance, after all.
Leeza Pearson always made sure her daughter Natalee arrived to school with a well-balanced meal every day. One afternoon, however, she picked her daughter up only to find out she didn't finish her lunch, and the reason had Leeza irate.
A Beautiful Life
Leeza Pearson and her husband lived in Aurora, Colorado, with their adorable daughter Natalee. Like any mother, Leeza wanted Natalee to have the best upbringing possible, and that's why they settled on quaint Aurora to live.
Four-year-old Natalee loved her life in Aurora. It wasn't full of the hustle and bustle of big cities. Aurora was the kind of place her parents could take her to parks on weekends and soak up the lush Colorado scenery.
Mom and Daughter
Leeza and her daughter were especially close. The young mother worked as hard as she could to give Natalee the best opportunities possible, and that was why she enrolled her in Aurora's Children's Academy.
Aurora's Children's Academy
The city's Children's Academy was a highly competitive academic program, but Natalee was talented enough to land a spot. Although this meant Leeza needed to keep a closer eye on her daughter's work, she was too proud to mind.
Bring A Lunch
Because Natalee was still only four, it was required that all students brought their own lunches from home. Leeza packed Natalee a well-balanced meal each morning and made sure to include her favorite snack.
The Best Cookie In Town
Oreos! The young girl loved indulging in the chocolate cookies after she finished her sandwich. For many weeks, Leeza packed this specific dessert, but something happened one afternoon that made her question the usual morning routine.
She picked up Natalee after school, and she could immediately tell something was wrong with her daughter. The young girl seemed irritable and was staying unusually quiet on the ride home.
A Note Tucked Away
After some parental interrogation tactics, Leeza figured out her daughter hadn't eaten much at lunch that day, hence the crankiness. When she asked why, Natalee showed her mom a note one of the teachers left inside her lunchbox.
"We Need Everyone's Participation"
Leeza was completely baffled — and offended — at the typed note someone left with her daughter. It basically said sugary treats were not allowed in the cafeteria due to the school trying to adhere to policies regarding healthy diets.
This did not sit right with Leeza. How dare the school tell her what she could and could not feed her daughter for lunch! She wasn't feeding Natalee poison; they were cookies for crying out loud!
School Lunches are Healthy?
Leeza could somewhat understand if Natalee was obese; no parent wants to keep enabling a dangerously unhealthy diet. But, Natalee was skinny and active. Plus, it's not like school-provided lunches had a great reputation, either.
Food Pyramid Woes
When you think of a cafeteria lunch, it's not like the healthiest parts of the Food Pyramid float though your imagination. It's usually fried and greasy food that's easy to mass produce. But, clearly schools were changing.
Calling All Experts
With all the science behind the importance of a balanced and nutrient-filled diet, schools were doing away with the saturated fat and implementing leafy greens. Experts weighed in with some interesting takes.
An NYU Professor
An NYU Professor of Economics and Education Policy even weighed in on the importance of a healthy diet: "Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired and are more attentive in class." Leeza felt parent-shamed.
"I think it is definitely over the top"
Leeza said, "I think it is definitely over the top, especially because they told her she can't eat what is in her lunch. They should have at least allowed to eat her food and then contacted me."
A Simple Error
Leeza realized on that particular day she actually forgot to pack a fruit or veggie with the lunch, so to the school workers, it came across as harmful negligence. However, Natalee should not have been punished for the error.
Leeza immediately snapped a photo of the note and posted it to social media. Nearly the entire community rallied around the shamed mother, agreeing the school's secondhand parenting was completely out of line.
The mom took the letter as a way to beat around the bush and discipline Natalee. She heard the message loud and clear, but she knew the school went about informing her of their policy irresponsibly.
An Offer She Could Refusre
After speaking to the Aurora Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Patti Moon, Leeza learned Natalee was offered a healthier snack as a substitute, but refused. Although this changed things a bit, Leeza still wished the school approached her differently.
Fortunately, Leeza didn't let the grudge drag out. It was a less-than-ideal situation, but both sides took something away. Of course, things would have been different if Natalee was physically suffering from her food, which one Virginia family actually dealt with.
Although Beth Paulette was a stay-at-home mom, she still led a busy life thanks to her four kids. In the mornings, she would make sure they were all bathed and dressed before sending them off to the school bus.
Her two oldest sons would ride the bus to Virginia's King & Queen Central High School where, in theory, the boys were well cared for before getting back on the bus and coming home. However, this, Beth found, was not the case.
Strangely, her son began coming home every single day complaining of bad headaches. Beth didn't know what to do besides give him some aspirin and hope that this was only temporary.
But then her other teenage son began showing the very same symptoms. Because there was only so much aspirin in the world — and because she cared about her boys — the mother of four started getting concerned.
It couldn't be a coincidence that every day, the migraines started right around the time the boys came home from school. She mulled over what could be causing this. Were the boys just trying to get out of doing homework? Were they properly hydrated?
Naturally, like any worried mother, Beth began watching her sons like a hawk. She triple checked they were asleep at night, reminded them to drink water, and made sure they weren't faking the headaches. But it was becoming clear that these headaches were real.
So, figuring her sons might be overly stressed, she began to text them throughout the day, asking them for updates and how they were feeling, honing in on anything that could've been the trigger.
On an ordinary day, weeks after the migraines surfaced, Beth and her sons were texting back and forth during their lunch period. "How is lunch?" she asked them. They sent her a picture in response.
And Beth was absolutely horrified by the photos, seen below. There was pizza that looked like cardboard, spare ribs that had been burnt to a crisp, and several items she didn't even recognize because the meal was in such bad shape.
The migraines suddenly made perfect sense — the boys had low blood sugar because they, like many others, found the food to be completely inedible! With food like this, who could blame them?
In fact, being that the food wasn't really nutritious — it was carbohydrate heavy and didn't offer a single vegetable — even those who did eat them could've been experiencing headaches and migraines, too.
While her sons worried they would get in trouble for skipping meals, they were relieved to learn Beth took their side. Furious with the state of the school lunch program she told her boys she would rectify the situation.
At first, Beth rallied fellow parents to change the conditions of the lunch program, but none of them wanted to make waves. So instead she turned to a "higher power" that could certainly help her make a ruckus about the mess.
With her rallying cries ignored by other parents, Beth forwarded the pictures of her sons' lunches to WTVR CBS 6 in the hope producers and journalists would be just as appalled as she was as what schools were dishing out.
The people at CBS 6, to Beth's relief, agreed this food was bad. Someone, the station determined, was going to answer for the unhealthy sludge being fed to the children at King & Queen High.
Investigators started flipping stones, and it turned out Beth's kids weren't the only ones skipping meals. One student, Precious Jackson, commented, "It looked so unappetizing, I could not bring myself to eat it at all."
Which, of course, isn't ideal. Aside from migraines and general hunger, skipping meals could also lead to problems with concentrating in class, as well as basic functioning. Kids don't need any help spacing out.
With a better understanding of the food situation, it was time for investigative journalists to talk to the school superintendent, Dr. Stanley Jones, whose responsibility it was to ensure proper nutrition for the pupils!
Apparently, journalists found, Dr. Jones was already aware of several problems regarding the school's cafeteria; the head of the school cafeteria had already been suspended after a series of complaints were filed.
However, the cafeteria head, Suzanne Gilbertson, told the news crew a different story. She said that she was not in charge at the time of her suspension. What's more, she made it her business to tell staff previously not to serve anything they wouldn't want to eat themselves.
It seemed the school did not only have a food problem but a miscommunication problem. Nobody wanted to take the blame. With external pressure applied and cameras rolling, though, the school would have to do something.
In the end, Dr. Jones did promise improvement. The cafeteria would no longer be serving up gruel, which would benefit not only Beth's sons but every other student at King & Queen High School as well!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that the food we purchase at schools, restaurants, and supermarkets is safe to eat. While it's generally a good idea to enforce strict guidelines to help keep harmful bacteria and parasites out of our kitchens, not every country operates in this way.
Over the years, the FDA has added plenty of items to its list of banned foods—including those from other countries. While these foods might be deemed safe enough in other nations, they're too risky for America...
Kinder Surprise eggs: These treats from Europe were banned in the U.S. because of a law stating that edible food cannot contain inedible products inside them. These eggs have small plastic toys hidden within their chocolate shells, which could be a 'choking hazard'.
Casu Marzu: The ban on this cheese is for one obvious reason - it's made using live maggots! On the island of Sardinia, Pecorino Romano cheese is intentionally infested with thousands of these creatures to supposedly "enhance" the flavor.
Shark fins: Shark fin soup is a popular Chinese delicacy, but the fins are banned in the United States because overfishing is destroying the shark population around the world. Stick to fish sauce if you want that extra oomph in your dish!
Sassafras oil: While the oil from the plant itself isn't necessarily harmful, the safrole and shikimol chemicals found inside it can be used in the production of the psychoactive drug MDMA.
Ortolan: This French delicacy has been banned due to the unethical treatment of the ortolan birds used. Not only are the birds endangered, but they're cooked and served whole! Most people prefer to not look at it while eating...
Beluga caviar: This comes from the Caspian Sea, but importing beluga sturgeon eggs into the United States is prohibited due to overfishing and the dwindling whale population. Don't worry, there are plenty (other legal types) of fish in the sea!
Mirabelle plums: Although some varieties of these plums are grown in America, the authentic fruits from Lorraine, France, are banned as part of a trade agreement that doesn't allow their importation. That's because the shipping process jeopardizes their quality!
Ackee fruit: Looks like we can't consume Jamaica's fruit either! This treat is used in plenty of authentic dishes. However, if you consume the fruit before it ripens properly, it can actually kill you.
Absinthe: This beverage was banned entirely in the U.S. until 2007, when the government started to allow its importation... so long as the psychoactive chemical thujone was left out of its production.
Haggis: Mix a sheep's heart, liver, and lungs with spices, oatmeal, and suet, then stuff it into the animal's stomach and serve it; that's the traditional Scottish dish known as haggis. Unfortunately, lung is one of the organs banned from importation into America.
Redfish: This aquatic creature became quite popular for its flavor during the 1980s, but now Mississippi is the only state that sells it at market. Redfish is banned simply so the species' population can be replenished.
Pig's blood cake: This traditional Taiwanese dish consists of pork blood and sticky rice. You wont find it anywhere in America due to sanitary precautions regarding the blood used in its production!
Lazy Cakes: These simple brownies may seem ordinary, but they actually contain the sleep-inducing agent melatonin. Arkansas banned the snacks because it's too easy for young children to get their hands on them.
Pufferfish: Also known as "fugu," puffer fish requires a special license to prepare, and only a handful of restaurants in the United States carry it. If improperly handled, the poison in the fish causes asphyxiation.
Unpasteurized milk: Also known as "raw" milk, most states do not allow for its production because the pasteurization process is vital in removing toxic microbes from the milk.
Sea turtles: These beautiful creatures have been endangered for quite some time now, so the U.S. strictly forbids their importation or exportation. The ban on sea turtles for consumption is an easy one to support!
Bird's nest soup: This delicacy started in China, but today it's even rare to find it within those borders. The main ingredient in the soup is bird saliva, which can carry a plethora of harmful bacteria.
Foie gras: While this one isn't banned throughout the entire United States, California outlawed it due to the unethical treatment of geese during the process. They're force-fed through tubes to increase the size of their livers.
Queen conch: Since 2003, it’s been illegal to import this crustacean because of the species’ low numbers. If you want queen conch, you have to travel outside of the U.S. where it’s far less regulated.
Bushmeat: This refers to any meat from animals hunted and slaughtered in Africa, including gorillas, antelopes, and elephants. Not only is it banned because it can carry fatal diseases, but it encourages illegal trading.