Whole grain strawberry toaster pastries.
Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry milk.
That’s what Rowan Elementary Middle School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is serving up for breakfast. They also have sausage patties which are a good source of protein, but have quite a bit of fat and sodium too. Fruit is also on the menu but vegetables? No way.
A whopping 13 million children in America live in food insecure households where healthy and safe food isn’t always a given. In high-poverty areas like Hattiesburg, the good news is that Community Eligibility, a federal program and key provision of The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, allows students to eat breakfast and lunch for free.
Studies show kids who eat breakfast have more energy, are more alert, miss less days in school, get higher scores on standardized math tests and are more likely to graduate.
The town I live in has a median household income of approximately $76,000 and at my daughter’s school, the breakfast menu includes whole-grain muffins, pancakes and waffles—all with milk and fruit. Not the best options in my opinion but what shocked me the most when my daughter started kindergarten is that they also offer graham crackers.
In my house graham crackers are a cookie and a treat. They’re low in fiber, protein and have added sugar. Not exactly the way I want my kid to start her day.
The School Breakfast Program, which is offered to any child, serves nearly 90,000 schools and child care institutions. According to the USDA, schools must follow the meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for America. Although they must adhere to federal meal requirements, the foods and the way they’re prepared are up to local school food authorities.
Yet it’s not only the schools in poverty-stricken areas that fall short when it comes to school meals.
School districts have to adhere to their budget but why can’t they serve whole-grain toast instead of pastry or oatmeal instead of grits which have more fiber and less sodium.
Rather than sausage, why not eggs, Greek yogurt or even beans?
It seems that come September, the problem will get worse. The Trump Administration announced recently that they will revise the school meal nutritional requirements relaxing the rules on whole grains, sodium and milk. Schools no longer have to offer 100% whole grains, adhere to a sodium limit and can now offer 1% flavored milk.
When it comes to teaching kids how to eat healthy, it must start at home with healthy food all the time. For food insecure families, however, that’s not always possible which is why healthy school breakfast and lunch are even more important.