For a long time, we have known that eating breakfast before school is a very good thing for students. Eating breakfast gives your body and brain the nutrients that it needs to work hard and stay going all day. Unfortunately, many students do not eat breakfast before going to school. For some, it is a lack of time in the morning; for others, it might be the financial usability to afford breakfast foods.
This problem was very apparent in Chicago Public School’s elementary schools. So, when the Chicago Board of Education passed a new program called Breakfast in the Classroom, it seemed like a good idea. The program was created to ensure that all Chicago elementary students get to eat breakfast by creating a 10-minute period at the beginning of the day when students are expected to eat a pre-made school breakfast.
There was already a pre-class breakfast program in many of these schools, but attendance was low to modest, CPS claims due to the stigma that was attached to the program: “only low-income students eat school breakfast.” Also, CPS said that many children preferred to play outside during the mornings or did not get to school early enough.
Sadly, this new program isn’t as good as it sounds. Linda Somers, the pediatric outpatient nutritionist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, analyzed the food for nutritional content. With meals like a pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick, sugary cereals, and almost no fruit or whole grains, Somers concluded that the schools are “serving crap,” not the healthy breakfasts that students need to get through their days.
“Poverty and hunger are real issues,” said Somers. “But this is not the way to fix it.”
Somers found several other problems with the program. In addition to serving high-caloric foods that are low in nutritional values, the schools are only allowing 10-minutes for the students to eat their breakfasts. Some students will have already eaten breakfast at home, so the Breakfast in the Classroom will be giving them empty calories that they do not need. In some schools, lunch time starts at 10:30 a.m., which means that students could be consuming multiple breakfasts (one of which is almost completely void of any nutritional benefits) and a lunch within a few hours. This means that students will probably be consuming a lot of empty calories, which when combined with shortened recess time or eliminated P.E. classes, could lead to childhood obesity.
In my opinion, the pre-school breakfast option is much better than this new program. Students who need to eat breakfast at the school have this option, but students who have already had a breakfast at home will not be tempted to consume extra, empty calories each day. Concerning the nutritional quality of the foods, maybe we should consider some of the lessons about healthier school lunches that Jamie Oliver offered on his television show.
Via The NY Times