School Breakfast: Are The Items Your Cafeteria Serves Helping or Hurting Children?

The discussion of breakfast in schools is on the rise.  Many serve it and also participate in the School Breakfast Program.  For schools serving breakfast, or considering it, how closely are you taking into consideration your menu items?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, for children especially.  In the School Nutrition Association’s “Power Up with School Breakfast” program, they’ve stated from research students who eat breakfast “score better in standardized tests, have fewer health issues and behave better in class.”

The School Breakfast Program runs similarly to the School Lunch Program in the sense they can only qualify for the funding if they meet federal dietary guidelines by the USDA.

While meeting guidelines sounds like a great way to help solve child hunger and provide meals with nutritional value, sometimes foods meet the requirements but still aren’t helping students.  Schools should take a step back to consider if the food items they serve, that fall under dietary guidelines, is still beneficial.  Take a look at these two pieces of information to get some ideas.

Personal Experience

Jenna Pepper, mother and blogger of Food with Kid Appeal, makes her children a healthy breakfast each morning.  In dialogue about whether or not schools should serve breakfast, she brings up many schools are meeting federal guidelines, however, are not providing food with the nutrients they need.

“Some breakfast in the classroom is sugary breakfast cereal and milk or Trix like yogurt and graham crackers,” she said.  “All very processed, very sugary often low fiber breakfasts with dairy protein being most commonly offered protein served.”

She proceeds to ask, “Is this better than an empty stomach? Do hungry kids learn better after eating junk than nothing? Probably, but for all the kids who eat breakfast at home, they will not either be eating an unhealthier breakfast or having to watch their peers eat tempting treat breakfasts on a routine basis.”

Case Study

In a study published earlier this year on the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health’s website, they look at the effects of serving high sugar cereals on a child’s breakfast-eating behavior.

They tested whether children would consume low sugar, ready to eat cereals—and—the effects of serving high vs. low sugar cereals on the consumption of cereal, refined sugar, fresh fruit, and milk.

The study concluded, “Compared with serving low sugar cereals, high sugar cereals increase children’s total sugar consumption and reduce the overall nutritional quality of their breakfast.  Children will consume low sugar cereals when offered, and they provide a superior breakfast option.”

What Will Your Cafeteria Do?

So, after having this information thrown on the table, perhaps it’s intrigued you to do your own research on what your own cafeteria serves.  Taking into consideration Pepper’s personal experience and the results of this case study, is the food your school serves beneficial to children?

Also, while it may seem easy to say schools can change their breakfast menus overnight, there is only so much money allotted to schools.  Many times these sugary foods both meet guidelines and fit into the budget.

Are you a school that serves breakfast? What do you focus on first—money or nutritional value? And last, what do you take into consideration? Parents, your input is encouraged as well.

5 thoughts on “School Breakfast: Are The Items Your Cafeteria Serves Helping or Hurting Children?

  1. jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal

    what breakfast was eaten by the researchers in the study that the SNA quotes when promoting the school breakfast program? do they have the same nutritional breakdown as the typical breakfast served to public school kids?

    i believe studies that show better learning after breakfast. not all breakfasts are equal. a breakfast with real nutrients like protein, fiber and antioxidants in fresh fruit would nourish a brain better than cinnamon toast crunch and low fat milk (or worse, strawberry flavored milk).

  2. Central Restaurant Products Post author

    Good point to bring up Jenna! Just based off their website, I found:

    “The Power Up with School Breakfast campaign is brought to you by the School Nutrition Association (SNA), with the aim of highlighting the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, eating a variety of foods and being active.”

    And also,

    “School breakfast provides 25% of your recommended daily allowance of protein, calcium and iron, vitamins A and C and calories as well as meeting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

    So no specific foods here, but I found an SNA press release from March 3 which says,

    “Fortunately, schools are finding new ways to reach children in need of a healthy breakfast. School Nutrition Association has found that since 2002, participation in the School Breakfast Program has increased by 43 percent as schools have begun overcoming the logistical and timing challenges to breakfast service. In SNA’s new “Growing School Breakfast Participation” report, research reveals that many schools are now offering breakfast in grab ‘n’ go bags or hallway kiosks, or they are serving breakfast in the classroom.”


    “Every school breakfast is required to meet federal nutrition standards limiting fat and portion size and ensuring that each meal offers the necessary energy to start a day of learning. Breakfasts provide 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance of protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C and calories.”

    So it does kind of turn back around to your main thought–are schools serving foods which meet requirements…but still aren’t as healthy as they should be?

  3. Denver Cotsis

    A glass of pure fruit juice, bananas, yoghurt, low-calorie muesli with semi skimmed or skimmed milk, fresh fruit salad with few spoonfuls of low fat yoghurt, fresh and raw veggies mixed with flavoured yoghurt, a slice of toast or plain bread with eggs, boiled or poached are some of the options for breakfast. Kids can enjoy a Smoothie with their favourite fruits; add dash of yoghurt or honey to make it more delicious.:

    Our blog site

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