The provincial government has told a Rossburn child care centre it is prohibited from charging families for additional food items to complete requirements under the Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
The move came after a story about an incident that happened at the Little Cub’s Den Daycare more than 11 months ago appeared in an online blog earlier this week. The story detailed how Rossburn mom Kristen Bartkiw was assessed a $10 charge on Dec. 10, 2012 after it supplemented the lunches she sent for her two children which contained leftover roast beef, potatoes, carrots, an orange and milk.
"That’s unacceptable. We do not allow extra fees for food unless it is voluntary," said a spokeswoman from Manitoba’s Family Services branch, noting licensed child-care centres have fixed rates set by the province and cannot go above them unless there is agreement by the parents. "We learned of it (Monday) and got in touch with them right away and said this is unacceptable. My understanding is they’ve changed the policy."
The daycare, acting under Manitoba’s Early Learning and Child Care Community Child Care Standards Act, which follows The Canada Food Guide to Healthy Eating, had deemed the lunches missing the "grain" requirement and served Ritz crackers to Bartkiw’s children.
"The mom was the chair of the board at the time this all happened 11 months or so ago and they implemented a policy of applying fees for supplementing lunches from home. The fee was quashed," the spokeswoman said.
She said the regulation was put in place in 1986 requiring licensed child care centres to ensure children had nutritious meals and snacks while at the centre by following Canada’s food guide.
"The whole purpose was to make sure kids had good nutrition and balanced meals and obviously common sense should prevail in any of those situations," she said, noting the food guide also refers to nutrition "over the course of the day."
Under Canada’s food guide, a balanced meal includes two servings of fruit or vegetables, one meat (or equivalent), one milk product and one grain.
Under the food guide, potatoes are considered a vegetable. Bartkiw, like most parents, felt potatoes would be a grain equivalent because of the starch content.
Bartkiw did not have to pay the charge after she pointed that out to the daycare director the next day, according to information on the blog.
The daycare has since moved to a hot lunch program, which follows the provincial regulations for a balanced meal so parents no longer supply lunch.
"If they did notice a child coming to school or a child care centre and not having food or being malnourished, there is an expectation that child care centres would take an educational role and talk with parents about balanced meals and nutrition."
Telephone and text messages left for Bartkiw were not returned. Phone and email messages to Little Cub’s Den director Nicole Shindruk were not returned.