1 of 2
Deseret News Archives
Homemade school lunches.

Kristen Bartkiw thought she had done her nutritional duty as a parent when she sent her children to day care with homemade roast beef and potatoes, carrots, an orange and milk. But the children returned home with a note saying the lunch she packed lacked grains, which the day care center supplemented with Ritz crackers and a $10 fine for Bartkiw.

“It was frustrating,” Bartkiw said in an interview with the Canadian National Post. “I actually phoned the day care afterwards and said, ‘Really? Am I actually getting charged for this?’”

Bartkiw shared her situation with Weighty Matters, saying the day care’s interpretation of the Manitoba government’s Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations did not support healthy meals.

She wrote that if she were to send her children with lunches of “microwave Kraft dinner and a hot dog, a package of fruit twists, a cheese string and a juice box, (there would not have been a problem).”

Critics have attacked both the fee given to Bartkiw for the lack of grains in the lunches, as well as the day care’s decision to give the children Ritz crackers as a grain supplement.

“Ritz crackers are junk food,” wrote an anonymous commenter on Weighty Matters.com. “They are made of a very poor quality carbohydrate (white flour) combined with poor-quality fats. They contain artificial color and high-fructose corn syrup which should never be given to children. That day care has no idea about how to enact a reasonable nutritional policy.”

Others agree the episode is another example of people not being able to understand complicated nutritional information.

“With over 60 percent of us overweight or obese, and the massive loads of ultra-processed foods everywhere we turn, I would guess that most of the population is completely confused about ‘what to eat,’" wrote Dr. Joyce Slater, a registered dietitian in her post, “The Ritz Hits the Fan in Manitoba.” “Add to that our complicated nutrition messaging (most of which now comes from food companies) — and guess what? Ritz crackers DO fit in the grain group! And, hey — those potatoes; well, um … high carb, but … Don’t they really go in the veggies? I have undergraduate nutrition students who are confused about this — because it is confusing!”

Bartkiw received the note from the day care in December 2012, and the story recently gained viral attention.

Abby Stevens is a writer for the DeseretNews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.