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,
Craig Oster, Ph.D.