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.
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.”
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.