School Officials Push Students to Eat Breakfast

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, September 14, 2009
Eat your breakfast, win cash for your school – $2,500 dollars worth. That’s the gist of a competition that kicked off Monday among the Sacramento City Unified School District’s high schools. The one that shows the greatest increase in students eating breakfast at their cafeteria will reel in the dough, courtesy of the folks who market milk in California. The goal is to get kids to eat two healthy meals a day at school. But that might be easier said than done.

Hiram Johnson senior and student government president Lucio Flores doesn’t eat breakfast at school. But he does eat it at home.
Flores: “I eat breakfast every morning.
Ben: “Really, you’re not just saying that?”
Flores: “No, I’m dead serious. I wake up and eat breakfast – that’s the first thought on my mind.”
Ben: “What do you have?”
Flores: “Either a bowl of cereal or Eggo waffles, my favorite. The little cinnamon ones, the little ones you can break apart.”
Flores says most of his friends eat breakfast pretty regularly too – sometimes grabbing a bite on the way to school. But they don’t usually eat breakfast at school – at least, not very often. And how many of the more than 2,000 Hiram Johnson students do?
Hayes: “We’ll go up to about 350, 400.”
Ben: “And how many eat lunch?”
Hayes: “Right now – 800.”
That’s Dena Hayes, who runs the school’s cafeteria. Breakfast costs just $1.25. Lunch is $1.75. But despite the cheap price, Hayes says it’s not easy to change student behavior – both when it comes to eating healthy and when it comes to eating breakfast.
Hayes: “It’s a matter of choice – we can’t force them. They’re coming to us with what they’ve learned at home. And we’re trying to offer the nutrition standards out here that our kids can make the right choices and eat healthy. But it’s what they’re used to. It’s gonna be slow for them to change, very slow.”
State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell led the rally at Hiram Johnson yesterday to encourage eating a healthy breakfast. Afterwards, he acknowledged the “Breakfast Challenge,” as it’s called, faces quite the challenge itself.
O’Connell: “It tends to be easier to have students make the healthy lifestyle choices during the school hours – during lunch and during snack. It’s a little bit more of a commitment to get students to come to school earlier, if our schools are able to provide those nutritious meals.”
And even if officials can nudge students towards eating breakfast at the cafeteria, that still won’t guarantee they’ll eat healthy. Hiram Johnson’s menu options on a typical morning range from cereal and muffins to sausage on a stick … wrapped in a pancake … dunked in syrup.