Most parents would agree that breakfast is an important component in a successful school day. The majority have applauded the efforts of schools to supply breakfast to children who wouldn't get a morning meal otherwise. However, questions have been raised about the quality of the meals offered, which has led some districts to make some changes to their breakfast menus.
Going Healthy in D.C.
According to a Washington Post, D.C. schools will be some of the first to stop offering sugar-laden cereals and flavored milks in their cafeterias. The milk will change during the summer term, while the schools hope to open their new school year offering healthier cereal choices to students. DCPS spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway told the Post that the system's "goal for this upcoming school year is to serve cereals with six grams of sugar or less."
Calloway added that the district would be taste-testing a variety of low-sugar alternatives to determine the selections that would be healthy and tantalizing to students' taste buds. According to Better D.C. School Food, the district was notorious for offering sugary selections like Apple Jacks, Raisin Bran and Pop Tarts, in addition to flavored milks that contain nearly as much sugar as a can of soda. When kids combine the flavored milk with other sugar-packed selections, they might start their day with as much as 60 grams or 15 teaspoons of sugar – before school even begins!
The school district recently hired former restaurateur Jeffrey Mills as Director of Food Services for D.C. Public Schools in hopes of improving both the quality and the nutritional content of the food served to students daily. Mills promises a number of healthy changes to the cafeteria menu by the time the students head back to school in August.
Changes on the Horizon in Chicago
Chicago Public Schools have recently moved to open their breakfast program to the majority of students in their system, much to the delight of parents and educators in the area. However, as more parents and nutrition experts are tuning into the fare offered through the Chicago schools, the delight is quickly turning to concern over the types of foods children are consuming every day, according to a report on WGN News.
One of the biggest items in contention is the "MVP Breakfast," which consists of a fortified doughnut. The concept was created by former football star Franco Harris, and many cafeteria staff members are hesitant to call this round pastry with a hole what it really is. However, nutritionists know a doughnut when they see one, and they are protesting their presence in the Chicago school system. The doughnuts are offered daily, along with other sweet fare like sugary cereals and syrupy waffles.
School administrators argue that healthy selections are offered along with the sugar-laden treats, and that children get to choose up to three items for their breakfast every day. However, opponents to the menu argue that kids will opt for doughnuts and waffles over eggs and fruit any day, so most children will not get the necessary nutrition to get them through the morning until lunchtime arrive.
The Chicago Public Schools argue that their food choices fall within USDA standards. However, the USDA is the first to admit that the current guidelines are outdated and has commissioned the Institutes of Medicine to review the standards and make necessary revisions. Many are hoping that the revisions will rule out some of the processed food selections that are now being offered in Chicago Public Schools – like the doughnuts that are currently going by another title.
Making Good Choices
Part of the problem is the new food labeling campaign, known as Smart Choices, that has added many sugar-laden cereals to its list. Government agencies, as well as many nutrition experts, are concerned with the criteria used for this new system, according to a report in the New York Times. As an alternative, the USDA has provided a list of healthy cereal options. The list was designed to help schools make healthy choices in their purchasing and to help students make good food choices.
While schools making changes are expecting students to refuse the healthy options at first, they are confident that students will accept the new fare once they realize there are no other options available. In a country where obesity is running rampant, even among the youth, any changes toward more nutritious, lower calorie eating would be welcome by the health community today.