Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

School Breakfast Sugar

At a school I recently visited on my Cheesie Mack book tour, I arrived as breakfast was being served. It was a sugary, carbo feast, consisting of a paper carton of chocolate milk, a plastic container of sweetened applesauce and a hard boiled egg in a twist-tied plastic bag, and a cinnamon bun in cellophane. All four items were packaged in a plastic container. Of the forty children (ages 7-11) whom I witnessed, a few paid their $1.50, but most of the breakfasts were subsidized by government funds. Since I had 15 minutes until my first group of students would arrive for their hour with an author, I observed the breakfast.

Most striking was the gusto the cinnamon buns engendered. Every child consumed every crumb and icing drizzle.Three children, seemingly swept into near unconsciousness by the sugar buzz, finished their pastries, inverted the cellophane packaging with one hand inside, and methodically, carefully, systematically licked every molecule of sucrose off the inside of the plastic as if they were zombies consuming icing popsicles.

The chocolate milk was also greatly appreciated. Every carton was opened. Three-quarters of the kids finished every drop.

Only a few children even bothered to unkink the twist-tie and get to the sugary fruit and hard boiled egg. Of those, only two children ate an egg.

The garbage can was full of food. And plenty of plastic packaging.

Final consumption:

100% Cinnamon bun
75%  Chocolate milk
15%  Sweetened applesauce
5%  Hard-boiled egg

Childhood obesity. Diabetes. Waste.

We’re sowing. And we will reap.

3 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    Great Post, Steve. Perfect example of our destructive behavior. Makes me sick. The only redeeming factor is that it sounds like a lot of kids are in home situations that prohibit breakfast, and at least they’re getting SOME calories before they have to start learning. Still, a broken system, to be sure.

  2. Kami Cotler says:

    And is it so hard to change it… At ECMS we use Revolution Foods and we pay a little extra so our packaging is mostly recyclable/compostable. Rev Foods tries to make the meals healthy AND likely to be eaten, but the kids tend to throw out the healthiest bit. Plus the federal rules on calories, proportions of protein to carb are so strict that you end up with bizarre pairings. Plus, you are required to give each child ALL of it, so what they don’t want ends up in the trash. What students bring from home is appalling. I spend most lunches roaming from child to child giving outraged mini-lectures on what they have chosen to eat. They think I’m hilarious.

  3. Wendell Holmes says:

    Great post, Steve. Food for thought. Good example of Law of Unintended Consequences & how it relates to governmental regs. The intention to create the most likely environment for positive choice ends up creating the most waste.

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