RALEIGH -- It was a tale of government meddling that outraged radio talk-show hosts and a pair of Congress members -- a 4-year-old was forced to dump her packed lunch and eat a state-dictated cafeteria lunch of chicken nuggets.
Now school officials are blaming a teacher's error in making sure the child had a nutritious meal.
The incident happened two weeks ago at an elementary school in Raeford, N.C., near Fort Bragg. The girl's parents anonymously tipped off a Raleigh TV station and a conservative blogger after the girl brought home her packed lunch uneaten.
Conservatives who see it as yet another example of government overreach leaped on the story, and it reached two of North Carolina's U.S. representatives, Republican Renee Ellmers and Democrat Larry Kissel.
They wrote a letter asking U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to investigate.
"The content of a school lunch provided to a child by their parents should be governed only by the child's parents, not another government bureaucrat," they wrote in the letter.
The cafeteria details are true, but rather than an example of government "lunch bag police" overruling a family, it's an embarrassing lapse by a teacher, Hoke County Schools Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes said Thursday.
The girl's teacher should have handed the child a carton of milk to round out the turkey-and-cheese sandwich and banana she brought from home. Instead, the teacher erred by telling the tyke to get a cafeteria lunch, Barnes said.