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Schools Sweeten the Deal–Don’t Bite!

Posted in Kids & Nutrition with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by smalltownhealth

Dad is heading out the door. Mom just got out of the shower. The kids are still asleep, despite their ringing alarm clocks. Everyone has to be up, dressed, groomed, and fed within the hour. Time for school.

Does this sound familiar? The hurried frenzy of school mornings leaves many parents feeling panicked. Will the kids catch the bus? Is their homework completed? What about breakfast?

Well, parents, it just might be your lucky day. If your school district, like mine, has decided to serve up breakfast, your morning checklist could have one item crossed off–permanently! And while this may sound like a giant weight has been lifted, chances are you might have a change of heart when you see the offerings.

As I was looking through our mail, I noticed we had received our second grade daughter’s back-to-school packet from our district (even though we are homeschooling this year). In it was the usual calendar, lunch menu, bus schedule, emergency contact form, and orientation information. But this year there was something new–the school breakfast menu! This is what it said:

Welcome to Breakfast

Breakfast will be available to everyone before the start of the school day. Fuel up for a great day! The above menu will be available for the entire school year. Students receiving free or reduced benefits for lunch will also receive free or reduced benefits for breakfast. Breakfast charges will be deducted from the lunch account. Students will only be allowed 3 charges for any meals. Cereals are reduced sugar and the juice is 100% fruit juice. White 1% milk will be offered.

This is the actual menu:

School Breakfast Menu

I’m no expert, but I do have quite a bit of knowledge on the subjects of health and nutrition. This is what I know:

  • Sugar + Sugar + Sugar ≠ Fuel for a Great Day
  • Eating the above menu 5 days/week for 36 weeks will have no positive impact on a child’s health, and keep in mind, bad habits are hard to break.
  • Whether these cereals are reduced sugar or not makes no difference; the calories, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, and other nutrients are almost the same as their full-sugar counterparts. It’s all about marketing.

I feel great concern for the kids receiving free or reduced benefits. The meals they eat at school are oftentimes the most nutritious meals of their entire day, if not their ONLY meals. Shouldn’t they at least have SOME nutritional value? What’s wrong with serving scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast? Cheerios with fresh fruit? Oatmeal with fruit? Breakfast burritos? Don’t get me wrong, I do not place blame on the district. I realize that there are many regulations regarding school meals; I’ve watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I realize money is tight and there is a budget to follow. But what about the health and welfare of our children?

Interestingly, this statement is taken directly from the 2010-2011 elementary student handbook:

Packed lunches should be a balanced lunch (ex. sandwich or cheese and crackers, vegetable, fruit, or cookie.) No soda pop should be packed in lunches. Beverages should be milk, fruit juice, or bottled water.

These are very reasonable expectations that they place on parents. Shouldn’t we, as parents, place the same expectations on those we trust with our kids every day? Think about why you send your children to school–to LEARN. They’re learning that sugary stuff is what they should eat at breakfast time; greasy starches and cheese is what they should eat at lunch; candy, chips, and cupcakes are acceptable mid-day snacks.  Is there any wonder we, as a nation, are raising fat kids?

I would love to hear your input on this subject, and while your school system may not have the same welcoming ears, drop them a line while you’re at it!