Metro/Submitted Left, the note sent home to (right) Kristen Bartkiw and her husband, Wade.

A Manitoba mother was surprised last year when her kids came home from daycare with note informing her she’d be fined because the lunch she’d packed for them—complete with homemade roast beef, potatoes, carrots, an orange and milk—was unbalanced.

And the kicker for Kristen Bartkiw came when she read how the daycare had balanced the lunches: her five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter were each given Ritz crackers to make up for the missing grain required under the province’s school lunch policy.

“They have certain legislation that they have in place where you have to follow these food groups, but it doesn’t matter how processed the foods are or if they’re junk food… so Ritz crackers count as a grain,” laughed Bartkiw, 33, who lives in Rossburn, Man., and actually sat on her children’s daycare’s board when the letter came home last December. “I phoned the daycare worker and said ‘you know, potatoes, surely I can get away with this,’ and they didn’t actually end up charging me the $10.

“But it was just the principle of the thing, that it was not considered a healthy lunch that I found ridiculous.”

The policy says “a nutritious meal (as outlined in the Canada Food Guide)” must be provided by daycares taking care of children for six or more hours a day, according to the province’s website.

Bartkiw’s story was made public Monday on an online blog.

While she understands the policy is intended to encourage parents to make sure their kids are eating whole meals, Bartkiw thinks in many cases the Canada Food Guide can be too broadly interpreted.

“You could send microwave Kraft Dinner everyday and that would count as a grain under the guide,” she said. “I would encourage parents to not just blindly follow the Canada Food Guide, but really think about eating more real food and not packaged food.”

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