Health & Wellbeing
State of the School Breakfast
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee

Only half of our nation’s students who qualify for free or reduced-price school breakfast are actually getting one. School teachers and principals in America see too many students who are too hungry to learn. A nutritious breakfast can be important not only for growth and development, but also may help students reach their full academic potential.

There’s a need for school breakfast and you have an opportunity to enter this space with other food companies. Think about how you can co-develop the perfect breakfast for students. One thing we, on behalf of National Dairy Council and the Innovation Center for US Dairy, did was partner with Sodexo to lead the first School Breakfast Summit. School experts in culinary, nutrition and food development came together to work toward a common goal: To help reimagine school breakfast to improve nutrition in the school environment.

A panel of school nutrition directors (SNDs) shared their wish list for products and support around school breakfast. The eight biggest breakfast challenges and opportunities discussed include:

  1. Kid Appeal: Taste trumps all. Surveys indicate students want variety, choices, and healthy foods. Their favorite food items are pizza, chicken and burgers and they like ethnic variations, especially Mexican. How can you customize a healthy breakfast around their favorite foods?
  1. Versatility: Breakfast items need to meet the needs of different school environments (e.g., breakfast in the classroom, grab-n-go, etc.).
  1. Ease in Serving: Stickiness can be a big barrier to teachers’ and administrators’ support of school breakfast in the classroom. Focus on non-sticky items for success. Food items need to be fast and easy to prepare and serve.
  1. Packaging: Need minimal packaging for individually wrapped items so the food is visible. Single serve items in heat-able packages are ideal.
  1. School Meal Requirements: One of the biggest challenges with meeting school meal regulations is providing a serving of grains and fruit. Ideal items combine one grain serving and a half- to one-cup of fruit. Try using dried fruit to help provide an appropriate fruit serving.
  1. Cost: Schools need support from the broader community through grants, partnerships and other methods. Alternative delivery methods, such as grab and go and breakfast in the classroom, entail upfront costs for serving equipment. Combine that with escalating costs for labor, safety and food storage, schools have a difficult time meeting these growing costs alone.
  1. Sustainability: When innovating new food items, consider seasonality of food items, using environmentally conscious packaging and minimizing raw materials and food waste.
  1. Stealth Health: Should products be named what they are or be transparent yet creative in naming food items, like Z-bread, which is really zucchini bread? Be transparent yet creative in naming food items to educate kids about healthy foods.

How can you take advantage of these opportunities for school breakfast? School experts identified the top 4 concepts and brought them to life:
Muffin

  • Muffins 

Can be part of a reimbursable school breakfast meal.

Hand-held Mexican

  • Hand-held Mexican


Pizza Flatbread

  • Pizza/flatbread

Serving size equals one square of pizza. Can be part of a reimbursable school breakfast meal.

Breakfast Bowl

  • Breakfast bowl

Can be part of a reimbursable school breakfast meal.

Be a part of the solution and help bring students the nutrition they need with the new foods they will eat. How can you continue to build off these key insights and concepts to take action? Let me know!

 

Peggy H. Lee, MBA, SNS is Vice President, Business Development, Fuel Up to Play 60. Previously, she worked 30 years in school nutrition and was the Director of School Nutrition Services in Chesapeake and Norfolk, Virginia.

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One comment on “State of the School Breakfast

  • I’m interested in a menu that reveals what the serving size/amounts for school children should be.
    My school offers a hot meal and a cold meal for breakfast. In the hot meal line, the serving was fruit, milk, small container of syrup and 2 french toast strips. In the cold meal the serving was fruit, milk, frosted flakes cereal and a whole piece of buttered toast.
    I complained that the two pieces of french toast equaled 1/2 piece of bread. Kids wanted more but were denied because that was the proper serving size yet the cold meal included a full bowl of sugar coated cereal and full piece of buttered toast. I would like to see a serving size menu.

    Reply

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