(RALEIGH) – Some parents and lawmakers say the discussion over the Hoke County school lunch issue continues to skirt two key overarching issues. One is what some parents see as an intrusion into their rights when government officials inspect homemade lunches and decide they don’t meet nutrition standards. Another area of concern expressed by some lawmakers is that of unelected bureaucrats making up rules to implement state laws.
People who are paid to babysit children in their private residences could face those same concerns. The Child Care Commission makes the rules covering child care in North Carolina and has proposed the same nutrition rules governing pre-K programs should apply to private Family Child Care Homes. Those are private residences that care for at least two children who are not related to the homeowners.
According to records at the Division of Childhood Development and Early Education (DCDEE), there are 3,338 licensed Family Care Homes in North Carolina serving 19,631 children.
Currently the nutrition rules for those homes are not as stringent as those for pre-K programs, such as the one at West Hoke Elementary School. It became the subject of national attention when children were told their homemade lunches didn’t meet nutrition standards, so the children had to take school food in addition to their bag lunches.
That could become an issue for the Family Child Care Homes under the rules proposed by the Child Care Commission. While those homes don’t have to supplement homemade lunches now, they would have to do so under the new regulations. The proposed rules also prohibit homeowners from serving such snacks as cookies, chips or donuts, except for special occasions.
Children older than 24 months would have to be provided with a snack or meal every four hours. But the meal could not include flavored milk, sugary drinks (including Kool-Aid) sweet tea and fruit drinks. The caregiver also could not give an infant juice in a bottle without permission from a heath care professional.
The homeowner also would have to provide an area for mothers who are breastfeeding their infants. Under the new rules the accommodation would have to be in an area other than a bathroom, have an electrical outlet and be shielded from view by staff and the public.
The Child Care Commission will continue to review the rules at a meeting on May 8. Whatever that panel approves moves on to the Rules Review Commission for consideration. After the Rules Review Commission acts, then citizens have 24 hours to object to any rule. If at least ten people sign a petition of objection, the rule goes to the General Assembly for a hearing.