In April 2015 Leeza Pearson’s daughter, Natalee, reportedly came home from preschool feeling hungry. This no doubt struck Leeza as odd because she’d apparently provided her little girl with a perfectly adequate lunch that day. But then the concerned mother allegedly discovered a note in her daughter’s lunch box that cut right to the heart of the matter.
Leeza and Natalee hail from Aurora, Colorado, as does Natalee’s father, Nate Biersack. In 2018 Leeza is studying political science at the Metropolitan State University of Denver – but this particular story takes place three years earlier. And back then, Leeza allowed a four-year-old Natalee to attend the Children’s Academy in their home municipality.
According to care.com, the Children’s Academy & Childcare Center can look after as many as 150 kids in one go. This includes children who are almost ready for school – such as Natalee at the time – as well as those who are only just finding their feet.
And as far as anybody knows, Natalee was getting along just fine in the daycare center. Certainly, Leeza and Nate had never publicly stated any grievance they’d previously had with the school. But sadly that all changed on Friday, April 24, 2015.
That’s because it was on this date that the incident with Natalee’s school lunch occurred. So what happened? Well, Leeza packed her daughter’s meal into a lunch box as usual. But she claimed that she realized too late that she hadn’t got any fruit or vegetables to offer her child.
So seemingly without any other options, Leeza tucked a packet of Oreo cookies into Natalee’s lunch box. Of course, Leeza said this hadn’t been the only thing that she’d provided her daughter for lunch that day. No, Leeza claimed that she’d also included a ham-and-cheese sandwich as well as a cheese-string.
Leeza said she didn’t think the cookies were that big of a deal either. “We’re not the parents that send junk food every day. She has a full, healthy lunch,” she told Today in April 2015. “And this was Friday! Why not give her a special treat?”
But when Natalee returned home from preschool later that day, she apparently wasn’t feeling as full as she normally would. And then Leeza allegedly found a note from a teacher placed inside Natalee’s lunch box – alongside an uneaten packet of cookies. But it was the contents of the note, more than the unopened cookies, that reportedly gave Leeza cause for concern.
Leeza claimed that the note read, “Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting, and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a healthy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it.”
The note reportedly continued, “Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program, and we need everyone’s participation.” After reading the brief communication, Leeza was apparently angry enough to post the note online.
Commenters on the resulting social media post were seemingly just as annoyed as Leeza, too. “I just got a bunch of outrage from friends I hadn’t heard from in years,” Leeza told Today in April 2015. One commenter in particular appeared to sum up the overall response when they labeled the note “ridiculous.”
Of course, it’s not unusual for a school to ask parents to provide healthy lunches for their children. After all, in 2010 the (now modified) Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act came into force, helping to promote more vegetables, fruit and whole grains in kids’ diets. The act also suggested limiting trans fats and sodium.
Moreover, healthy food undoubtedly helps children thrive in schools. In March 2017 associate professor of economics and education policy at NYU Steinhardt Sean Patrick Corcoran told The Atlantic, “Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class and retain more information.”
But Leeza said it wasn’t the policy of eating healthily that annoyed her. Rather, it was the way that she felt the teacher had “shamed” her. “They took it over the top. To say, ‘The kid can’t eat it. It was in her lunchbox, but you can’t eat it today,’” Leeza told KMGH-TV in April 2015.
The mother-of-one was further concerned about the school seeming to force her to go against her own instincts. “What the school thinks is healthy for her is not what I think is healthy for her,” she told USA Today at the time of the incident. “She needs to eat what she’s going to eat. That’s between me and her and our doctor – not the school.”
Leeza was also quick to point out that her daughter is not physically unhealthy. “She is not overweight by any means, and I usually try to feed her healthy,” she told ABC News in April 2015. “It’s not like I was offering cookies to the entire class, and it’s not like that was the only thing in her lunch.”
On top of this, Leeza said Natalee’s school had previously celebrated a holiday by bringing in candy. She also claimed that the school’s staff had offered Natalee a sweet treat when she’d stayed after hours. “They say I can’t decide what to feed her but then they sometimes feed her junk food,” Leeza explained to ABC News.
In response, Brenda Dean, the Children’s Academy director at the time, told USA Today that she would look into the note. She also reportedly admitted that something like this should not have been given to a parent and that this practice is against school policy.
Patti Moon, the chief communications officer for Aurora Public Schools, seemed to agree with Dean. “From our end, we want to inform parents but never want it to be anything punitive,” she told ABC News. However, Moon did insist that Natalee had been given the choice of a different snack.
Unfortunately, the outcome of any further investigation conducted by Aurora Public Schools is unknown at this time. But in any case, it seems that all parties agreed that healthy eating within schools can only be a good thing for the students. And for her part, Natalee appears to be unaffected by the incident.