Sen. Jerry Tillman

Score a victory for lunch boxes, and parents who pack them.

The state Senate unanimously approved a bill that would remove “lunch police” inspection of meals prepared at home and sent with children to pre-school programs.

“The lunch police… were looking into the bag lunches,” Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, told senators during floor debate on Tuesday.

Tillman was referring to an incident in Hoke County back in January, where a youngster’s bag lunch was inspected and found to be lacking. The episode, first reported by Carolina Journal in February, became known as the “chicken nugget” story.

The child brought a lunch from home. It consisted of a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips and apple juice. It didn’t include milk, an item that which is required to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional guidelines.

Instead of simply getting a carton of milk to supplement her bag lunch, the child went through the lunch line and got a tray. She ate three chicken nuggets from that tray. Her family members say that her bag lunch was taken home untouched.

Tillman said that while teachers at the school ought to have been in the classroom teaching, instead they were doing lunch police duty.

The bill, which passed 49-0, would still allow the state to require lunches served by the schools to meet nutritional guidelines. It would just exempt lunches brought from home from those guidelines.

Earlier in the week, when the chicken nugget bill was in a Senate committee, some senators suggested that the measure was a step backward in the fight against childhood obesity. But on Thursday, no one voted against it.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, did say that she felt there was a misunderstanding when the child who brought the bag lunch from home was sent to the lunch line. “The teacher sent the child over to get milk,” Kinnaird.

However, Kinnaird said that despite the misunderstanding, she felt that the chicken nugget bill was a good one.

The bill now goes to the House.