(Opinion Article) Lansing Michigan School District “Universal Breakfasts” Program Feeds Children Ridiculous Amounts of Sugar

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Two or three months ago, my dear friend Amy who had her daughter in the Lansing School District at the time wrote the following missive on my Dr Craig page, which troubled my heart for the wellness of these grade school children:

“Craig- Lansing School District has “Universal Breakfasts,” which is a wonderful practice, because that means children eat breakfast, regardless of income and home environment… well, it’s wonderful in theory. They eat breakfast in the classroom, first thing in the morning, during school time.

“The second ingredient in EVERY breakfast is sugar. Cecelia eats breakfast at home, and takes a small fruit and granola cup or Greek yogurt to eat at school while her classmates are eating deep-fried sugar in a bag (I stay with her for the first half hour of the day). I have called the district, and they said that they follow federal guidelines…there are none for sugar.

“I am working to reserve time to speak at a district meeting. I am working on a chart. So far, school breakfasts regularly contain twice the sugar (or more) recommended for children DAILY by the American Heart Association. The bars that they give children for breakfasts AND snacks contain 300 calories. That means that a 4 or 5 year old is eating 600 calories of sugar, and sometimes they give an additional bar- 900 calories in sugar. That leaves no calories and no appetite for their five a day of fruits and veggies, and none for protein.

“That does not even address the fact that all food is highly processed. Sugar-coated processed cheese food product is unacceptable for consumption by children. Sooo…our very own schools are basically handing out candy to kids several times a day!!”

Another mother replied to Amy’s comments with, “Please take into account the days they are given string cheese, yogurt, and milk.” I am guessing that the yogurt has high sugar content, that they may offer sugar-laden chocolate flavored milk as an option, and I have a feeling that I would cringe when reading the ingredient label for the processed string cheese, which Amy reported contains sugar. So, the more I thought about this mother’s reply to Amy, I realized that it didn’t give me much relief when I thought about the little ones who have more problems with being overweight than ever, not to mention what all of sugar that Amy referred to is doing to their overall wellness.

In another posting, Amy goes on to share her experience and paint an even more troubling picture of what she reports having witnessed the Lansing School District feed the children entrusted in their care. Amy continues:

“Unfortunately, our district gives high-sugar breakfasts every morning without fail. They have little nutritional value. This morning they had animal crackers and sweet muffins, along with juice. They serve frudels (sweet, sticky pastries that contain little real fruit), Crunch Mania Cinnamon Buns (sugar in a bag), pop-tarts, Scooby Doo crackers (they are really cookies, not crackers), breakfasts bars that have more than a day’s sugar and 300 calories each (and are often served for snacks again in the afternoon), Mini Maple Burst Pancakes (these are sweet, sugar-coated cookies in a bag), Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars, Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, Trix yogurt (heavily sugared with swirls of artificial color), etc.

“Then in the afternoons they get snacks: Gummy Bears, more of those bars, more Scooby Doo crackers, etc. As prizes for following directions, they get Skittles. There are days when the kids get 3 of those 300-calorie breakfast bars, for a total of 900 empty calories. For a five year old, that leaves very little appetite for their 5 a day of fruits and veggies. As icing on the cake, the school district and the state then turn around and talk about the problem of obesity in children, telling parents that they need to do this and that so that their children are healthier. It would be a wonderful thing to increase awareness, if it weren’t for the fact that the district itself is causing obesity. My daughter loves fruits and veggies, but she is a five-year-old, and it is difficult for her to turn down treats. I am having to teach her to do so at a very young age. I have little choice but to teach her that what they serve in school is bad for her. It is a shame.

“One more thing- my daughter loves foods ranging from peppers to kiwi, and she takes frozen green beans from the freezer to snack on. We do not buy sugary cereal- never have, not a single time. I am not saying we are perfect, but we put forth a great deal of effort, and she has always had WONDERFUL dietary habits. Now, suddenly, it is becoming more of a struggle. Some of her favorite foods do not appeal to her so easily. Fortunately, when I give her subtle encouragement, she does move back toward eating her healthy foods. However, how long will it be before her natural healthy habits become something of the past? Her classmates make comments about the breakfast foods we bring with us to school, and also about her lunches, so there is the issue of peer pressure. The school is discouraging a healthy diet!! The kids get a sugar rush and then later a crash, which does not benefit learning at all! I, for one, will not just shake my head and move on.”

I am grateful for Amy having taken the time to help me understand what is being done to our children. Although Amy misspoke when she said the 300 calorie bars were 300 calories of sugar, if sugar is the second ingredient we have a considerable problem here. Money should never be used to put something into children’s bodies which is bad for their health. Money is being wasted in a way that will contribute to less wellness in children. My research led me to discover that the Lansing program is funded in part by Aramark food services. I believe that the school district has a moral obligation to refrain from feeding children large amounts of sugar on a daily basis, even if a Big Food company offers to subsidize the Universal Breakfast program with junk foods at a discounted price or even for free. We must do better than that to protect the health of our children. This morning, a friend with whom I was discussing this article told me of her experience of having observed Aramark provide a healthier menu at the University of Chicago. I would be interested in learning more about the arrangements between Aramark and the school district, and whether Aramark would possibly offer a healthier menu if requested by the Lansing School District.

The breakfast program, the way I see it, is a form of education that is one more influence on the dietary habits that will evolve over a lifetime and contribute to many diseases and problems for individuals and for our society. I would like the taxpayer money to be used on wholesome foods that children will eat. I cannot believe that there is a valid reason to not do so.

Here is the January menu for the Lansing School District’s Universal Breakfast Program:

 

This menu lists much of but not all of what our concerned mother, Amy, reported having witnessed first-hand with her daughter while with her in a Lansing school building.

If you would like to help the children in the Lansing School District to receive truly nourishing food through the Universal Breakfast program, there are simple action steps that you may take to help this cause. First, repost this article in places that you believe will get the attention of the Lansing school district and the public that supports it. Second, contact the newspaper and television media outlets in the Lansing area and share this interesting story, even tell them that these are the kind of issues that THE HEALERS campaign is committed to awareness. Third, contact the Lansing school district and tell them that you are very displeased with and concerned about what they are feeding our children. Fourth, write a letter to the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and tell her about this situation and that Dr Craig and THE HEALERS would like to join her in creating healthier dietary menus for our children in the public school system.

Hopefully, Amy will keep us posted, and perhaps she will even do some deeper investigation for THE HEALERS. I will use THE HEALERS campaign platform to help Amy, the First Lady and anyone else interested in creating a healthier educational situation for children in the Lansing School District and across the USA.

Please help THE HEALERS campaign to advocate for our children,

Dr. Craig

Craig Oster, Ph.D.

Written by

Bio of Craig Oster, PhD

22-year survivor of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) & Co-founder / Scientist / Advocate at THE HEALERS campaign.

In 1994, at the age of 30, Craig Oster was given the “death sentence” diagnosis of ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.” Even though Craig’s physical functioning was slipping away, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1996. Dr. Craig entered hospice in late 2008. Dr. Craig’s fierce holistic quest turned his condition toward healing and he was discharged from hospice on May 30th, 2009.

Dr. Craig co-founded THE HEALERS Campaign on New Year’s Day 2012 with a mission to:
  • Demonstrate as much wellness as possible using his integrative approach focused on diet/nutrition, mind/spirit, and physical exercise
  • Inspire people to constructively approach whatever “hand that they have been dealt in life”
  • Conduct innovative ALS scientific peer-reviewed research that has the potential to enhance the wellness and quality of lives of people with ALS and their caregivers.

Over 50 renowned integrative medicine doctors, other health professionals and scientists have joined Dr. Craig’s ALS scientific research and holistic health educational campaign advisory team.

8 Comments to “(Opinion Article) Lansing Michigan School District “Universal Breakfasts” Program Feeds Children Ridiculous Amounts of Sugar”

  1. Amy says:

    Dear Dr. Craig,

    I am going to start posting LSD breakfasts and nutrition information.

    This morning’s LSD breakfast was Pullsbury Mini Cinnis (240 calories, 15g sugar) and orange juice (52 calories, 10.42g sugar), for a total of 25.42 grams of sugar and 292 calories. This does not count snacks, and we haven’t addressed lunch.

    http://life.familyeducation.com/nutritional-information/obesity/64270.html

    The AHA recommends that children ages 4-8 consume no more than about 3 teaspoons of sugar per day, or about 12.6 grams, if I am not mistaken. This morning’s breakfast alone was double that amount.

    With these breakfasts being served in the classroom, it is difficult to tell my daughter every morning that she can’t eat it. Though I am very supportive of the practice of universal breakfasts because it provides an important meal for children who might not otherwise receive it, I feel that the school district is taking away my right to feed my child a nutritious and balanced diet. I want my children to be healthy, not suffer from diabetes or obesity.

    Thank you for your post. I am very appreciative of your willingness to fight for children’s health and well-being.

    Sincerely,
    Amy

  2. Amy says:

    PS: Oftentimes when the menu says that fresh fruit is provided with breakfast, it is not. I don’t think I’ve seen fresh fruit since November (or perhaps once?), though they have had applesauce with breakfast a couple times. Cheese sticks are also rare.

  3. Amy says:

    Friday’s breakfast was Honey Nut Cheerios Snack Mix made by General Mills. I am not sure how many ounces are in the entire snack bag, but more than the 2/3 cup serving, which constains 6 grams of sugar. I am also unsure whether the applesauce cups contain added sugar. I will certainly obtain this information ASAP. I am all for apple sauce without added sugar.

    Monday, February 6: Kellogg’s Jump Start Express with Froot Loops, Graham crackers, and apple juice. Kellogg’s website makes it very difficult to find nutrition information for the combined Jump Start breakfasts, other than fiber, and finding the individual bags of the specific brand and size of grahams in the Express breakfasts has proved frustrating. Next time I will simply obtain the packages from school (most likely next Monday, as they seem to serve Froot Loops with Graham Crackers and apple juice every Monday). They apparently do not want anybody to know the nutrition information of these breakfasts. Perhaps somebody else will be able to disagree:

    http://www.fafh.com/products/Default.aspx

    In the meantime, here are interesting articles regarding feeding sugar cereals to children for breakfast:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/some-childrens-cereals-packed-with-sugar-ewg-study-finds/2011/12/06/gIQAayYlaO_story.html

    http://www.businessinsider.com/childrens-cereals-sugar-environmental-working-group-2011-12

  4. Greg says:

    Holt is starting to do this too, though you have to pay for it (unless you were already getting free breakfast). But it is served in the classroom.

    I question the whole program. I, like all parents who are able to do so and are responsible, feed our children breakfast, along with meeting their other needs. So my children, who have already eaten breakfast, have to watch the rest of their class chowing down. Unless, of course, we roll over, bow to peer pressure, and “get with the program”. Which is the path of least resistance.

    I really don’t need the government to do this for us. My children already spend a huge amount of time there, and the school has a large influence on their life. I really don’t need them taking over breakfast too. We can handle breakfast. Really.

    A program for those who need it? Great. And maybe a smaller and more limited program could afford healthier food, ya know? “Universal”? Not so much. :(

  5. Amy says:

    Tuesday’s breakfast:
    Muffin: 13 grams sugar
    Elf Grahams: 8 grams sugar per serving
    Fresh pear: (nice!!)

    Wednesday:
    Mini Cranberry Orange Bar (1.25 ounces): 11 grams sugar
    Cheese stick (hurray! Two pluses in one week!!)
    Merry Cherry Fruit Juice- This juice looked like grape juice to me. I did not grab an empy carton, so I do not have nutrition on hand, and it is nonexistent when googled. I guarantee it adds a whopping amount of sugar, though.

  6. Angela says:

    Universal Breakfast Program

    WHAT THIS DOES NOT SAY IS THAT ALL CHILDREN ARE REQUIRED TO TAKE A TRAY REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY HAVE BREAKFAST AT HOME OR A SPECIAL DIET!

    The Universal Breakfast Program was approved at Southwest City Elementary, Noel Elementary and Noel Primary schools for the rest of the school year.

    The federal program provides free breakfast to all students, regardless of their household income. Breakfast is given free to any student who wants it and the school receives a federal reimbursement for that student based on program guidelines.

    Assistant Superintendent Dick Davis said he choose those three schools because of the number of students on free and reduced lunches. He said the district would “not go in the hole” by piloting the program there. He said it would take 468 breakfasts served per day to break even.Anna Barton, representing Opaa! Food Service, the school district’s food service provider, said the company will guarantee the district not to lose any money on the program.

    http://mdcp.nwaonline.com/news/2013/mar/21/county-board-education-hires-transportati-20130321/

    http://www.opaafood.com/index.php/wellness-a-nutrition/universal-breakfast-in-public-schools

    My letter to OPAA:

    To whomever is forcing breakfasts at Southwest city MO elementary school,

    Do you have GMOs in your food? Pesticides, harmful processed ingredients? Where is your ingredient list? We moved to MO and my daughter started having seizures out of nowhere. The only difference in our life was that we let her have school lunches and breakfasts. So we took her off of those meals and she eats only wholesome, healthy, non gmo, unprocessed organic foods. She has been seizure free for 6 months. But to my surprise you have implemented a program at the Southwest city MO elementary school that provides breakfast to all kids there. Provide is the wrong word. Forced breakfast is more like it. After months without incident I get a call from the nurse that she’s had an episode. And then I find out that that same morning she was FORCED to eat your breakfast. Upon further review I find out that ALL kids must take a tray?! So when did you decide what MY child will do?! I am her parent not you. And you will not undermine my authority as her parent. If your school foods are so healthy then why would you be wasting so much food? Why would children HAVE to take a tray if they are just going to waste it? And I know that Honey bun my daughter was obligated to eat was NOT healthy like the breakfast I provided to her at home. I want answers and your ingredient lists for our school menu. I intend to take this as far as I need.

    • Dr. Craig says:

      Great letter. Would you like to write an article for THE HEALERS blog that would include your letter and some commentary? Please keep us posted. Gratefully, Dr Craig

  7. cheryl says:

    I would just say that doing the universal breakfast these past few years. Is absolutely ridiculous. I have seen soo much waste being thrown away. In are case, there is so much food left in the rooms thatball the kids to is eat all day. When they only have gym one day a week is sad. Are we really help with the obesity. That is the question.

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