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Industry-Packaged School Breakfasts: Better for Kids Than Nothing?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Appetite For a Change page.

In the new documentary 'Fed Up,' author and journalist Michael Pollan reminds us that: "Junk is still junk, even when it's less junky." If you want to see what Pollan is talking about, soon all you'll need to do is walk into a classroom in a low-income school district at breakfast time.

At a time when recent gains to the national school lunch program are in danger of being rolled back due to intense pressure from the food industry-a GOP spending bill approved Monday would allow some schools to apply for waivers that exempt them from new rules governing sodium, whole grains, fruits/vegetables, and snacks-it shouldn't surprise us that most school breakfast offerings are less than ideal.

But are they better than no breakfast at all? That's the unexpected question I struggled with after attending a breakfast summit in New York last week.

The summit was designed to educate school leaders in districts with a high percentage of free and reduced-priced meal students, on how to offer breakfast in the classroom. It's a worthy cause we can all support if the food served can help get kids to start their day on a healthy, nourishing note.

The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (ADADC) graciously reached out and invited me to the breakfast summit, after I publicly expressed my dismay at their sponsorship of the event. While I'm a fan of healthy dairy products, I do not believe that any food or beverage companies or trade organizations, should sponsor nutrition events. Since their missions are primarily to sell more product, that presents a major conflict of interest (see the "poster child" for these types of conflicts-the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). So I attended the breakfast summit, fully expecting to be aggravated with the dairy industry's marketing.    


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