Work of Research

Engage with a work of research

ASSIGNMENT: For this essay, you will select one of the articles provided below and engage in a 2-3 page summary and response dialogue with the source (not including cover pages, headings, reference lists, or reflection questions). This will involve providing a detailed summary of the source’s argument and responding to that argument with your position based on the information provided in the source.
Article Option 1: “The Recess Debate: A Disjuncture between Educational Policy and Scientific Research
Article Option 2: “Sugar in School Breakfasts: A School District’s Perspective

In order to foster learning and growth, all essays you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any recycled work will be sent back with a 0, and you will be given one attempt to redo the Touchstone.

A. Assignment Guidelines

DIRECTIONS: Refer to the list below throughout the writing process. Do not submit your Touchstone until it meets these guidelines.

1. Article Summary

❒ Have you introduced the title of the article and the author by name?

❒ Have you communicated the source’s purpose?

❒ Have you included all of the source’s main points, using page-numbered citations as you paraphrase?

❒ Have you restated the source’s argument in your own words?

2. Article Response

❒ Have you provided your perspective on the source’s argument?

❒ Have you used at least two specific, cited examples from the source to illustrate why you either agree or disagree with the argument?

3. Reflection

❒ Have you answered all reflection questions thoughtfully and included insights, observations, and/or examples in all responses?

❒ Are your answers included on a separate page below the main assignment?

B. Reflection Questions

DIRECTIONS: Below your assignment, include answers to all of the following reflection questions.

1. What ideas originally came to mind when you first read through the article? Did your initial response to the article change after reading it for a second time? (3-4 sentences)

2. How does paying attention to the way you respond to a source help you formulate your stance on a topic? (2-3 sentences)

© 2008 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

The Recess Debate
A Disjuncture between Educational Policy

and Scientific Research

Anthony D. Pellegrini

Some devalue recess because they assume it to be a waste of time. There is no theory
or empirical evidence to support this point of view. There is, however, abundant
and clear evidence that recess has beneficial effects on children’s social competence
and academic performance. The author tells how his interest in standardized tests
led him to years of recess study, compares recess survey findings in the United
States to those in the United Kingdom, and summarizes the benefits of recess for
school performance.

Recess has been part of the school day for as long as we can remem-
ber. Typically, most people have considered what children do during recess
as merely “playful.” Adults usually regard it as a break from the serious work
of the day—reading, writing, and arithmetic—while kids often say, perhaps
only half-jokingly, that it is their favorite time. Because what goes on at recess
does not appear serious, some claim it interferes with the “educational” mis-
sion of schools. This perception has led many districts to question the need
for recess.
Since I explored this trend in considerable detail three years ago in Recess:
Its Role in Education and Development, recess has remained under attack in
both the United States and the United Kingdom. The debate over recess began
around the same time (the early 1980s) in both countries and revolves around
similar issues in both places. The onslaughts against recess persist today, even
in the face of significant research supporting its educational value, a lack of
research supporting a contrary view, and a rising awareness of the importance
of play in general. Thus, it is useful to look anew at the arguments for and
against recess and to be reminded of what the evidence does and does not
show.

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The Argument against Recess

Breaks during the school day, like breaks from work on the factory assembly
lines, have existed for nearly as long as each of those institutions has existed.
Indeed, the rationale for breaks in both is very similar: after a reasonable amount
of work, you need a break, if for no other reason than it may help you to be
more productive. If you have never worked on an assembly line or do not
remember your primary school days, perhaps you can remember driving on a
long trip. You probably recall that the longer you drove the less attentive (and
less safe) you became. If you pulled over for a rest or a break, you were more
attentive (and safer) after you started again. This explains why many states
have laws governing the length of time truckers and airline pilots can drive or
fly without a break.
This rather simple but powerful and widely understood benefit of breaks
has not deterred a group, generally comprised of school administrators, from
reducing recess time or eliminating recess all together from the school day. The
reasons these “no nonsense” school superintendents and principals, as well as
many politicians, most often give are twofold. First, they claim that recess is a
waste of valuable time that could be more profitably used for instruction. Sec-
ond, they claim that during recess kids get bullied and that on the playground
they learn aggression.
Politicians and school administrators often use the first argument—recess
is a waste of instructional time—to demonstrate that they “mean business” in
making schools more effective. A number of years ago, then Atlanta Public
Schools superintendent Benjamin Canada and I discussed the role of recess in
schools on the Good Morning America TV show. I was touted as the “expert” on
recess, whereas Canada had made national news for proudly eliminating recess
in Atlanta schools and replacing it with physical education. He claimed that
by eliminating recess from the whole school system he had raised achievement
scores. Recess, he said, was a waste of time, and kids did not learn by “hanging on
monkey bars.” They could just as easily “blow off steam” in physical education
while at the same time learning useful skills. When pressed by both me and the
TV host for evidence of how achievement had gone up as a result of eliminating
recess, Canada did not provide supporting data, and to my knowledge no one
has ever presented data to uphold such a claim.
The evidence is exactly the opposite of Canada’s claims. As I shall summa-
rize below, in numerous controlled experiments children’s attention to school

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tasks decreased the longer they were deprived of a break and, correspondingly,
children were significantly more attentive after recess than before. It is very
much like taking a break on a long highway trip.
Contrary to popular belief, physical education classes do not provide such
a benefit. In 2001, the Council on Physical Education for Children, a national
organization of physical education teachers, denounced the idea of replacing
recess with physical education, although the council had a vested interested
in promoting physical education. As the council members would surely agree,
physical education—like other instructional disciplines—rightfully imposes
rigorous demands on children and adolescents so as to stretch their skills.
Therefore, it seems clear, the demands of a physical education class do not
constitute a break.
The second argument—that during recess, especially playground recess,
kids get bullied—also has flaws. It is true that kids get bullied on playgrounds,
but they get bullied in cafeterias, too, and in hallways, in bathrooms, in locker
rooms, just about anywhere with little or no adult supervision. Even so, the
base rate of aggression on playgrounds is incredibly low. Specifically, of all the
behaviors observed on preschool and primary school playgrounds in many
countries, physical and verbal aggression account for less than 2 percent of the
total (Pellegrini 1995; Smith and Connolly 1980).
The fact that rates of aggression are low at recess does not mean there are
no incidents that damage kids. Aggressive behavior can be intense even when
its rates of occurrence are low, and where there is intense aggression, people get
hurt. However, adult supervision of recess periods, like adult supervision of the
cafeteria and the hallways between classes, has a potent effect on dampening
aggression (Pellegrini 2002).
Contrary to the negative-behavior argument, recess remains one of the only
times during the school day when children have time and opportunities to interact
with their peers on their own terms. Through interaction at recess, children learn
social skills, such as how to cooperate and compromise and how to inhibit ag-
gression. Eliminating or reducing recess destroys these learning opportunities.

Why Study Recess? One Researcher’s Journey

Before examining the research in favor of recess, I should note how I came
to it. As an academic psychologist, I should be concerned with the ways in

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184 A m E R I C A N J O u R N A L O F P L A Y   •   F a l l 2 0 0 8

which children learn and develop in school. Studying recess and how children
become socially competent seems a more legitimate venue for an educational
psychologist. However, having investigated the role of children’s play in their
social and cognitive development for many years, especially play fighting (Pel-
legrini and Smith 1998; Pellegrini 2002, 2003) and the games of boys and girls
on school playgrounds (Pellegrini et al. 2002), the study of recess seemed a
logical extension.
My interest in school recess was really piqued by the debate over the role
of recess in Georgia in the early 1990s (well before Benjamin Canada’s claims
on Good Morning America) and the simultaneous use of standardized tests
as the sole criterion for the promotion of children from kindergarten to first
grade. As part of this—in my view, very questionable—venture, there was talk
of eliminating recess so kids could spend more time on the “important skills”
necessary to pass the tests. The argument went like this: test scores are declining,
and so given the limited number of hours in the school day, it makes sense to
eliminate or minimize a practice that is trivial at best and, in any case, antitheti-
cal to more serious educational enterprise.
My first reaction to the testing question was disbelief. We have known for
decades that kindergarteners are unreliable test takers (Messick 1983). Kids tend
not to perform consistently across time. For example, they could score in the
99th percentile on Tuesday, but if they retook the very same test on Wednesday,
they could score in the 65th percentile. If they took it a third time on Thursday,
they could score in the 99th percentile again. The different scores could be
due to something as simple as a swing in motivation related to a change in the
testing environment. (I observed this particular example in my own daughter’s
experience.)
Because children are unreliable test takers, it is important for educators to
use a number of different assessment strategies. Tests can and should be used,
but in conjunction with other measures, such as attendance, grades, teacher
evaluations, and observations of behavioral competence. When all of these
things are aggregated, we get a more valid picture (Cronbach 1971).
When the testing question arose in Georgia, I had been studying rough and
tumble play on the school playground during recess for several years. As part
of this research I had access to test scores from kindergarten through at least
first grade. I knew that what kids did on the playground required pretty high
levels of social cognitive competence, and I knew that kids were motivated to
implement those skills on the playground because they enjoyed interacting with

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their peers. So I wondered if what kindergarten children did on the playground
could be a valid predictor of their first-grade achievement, as measured by a
standardized test. That is, does kindergarten playground behavior predict first-
grade test scores, even after we control statistically for academic achievement
in kindergarten? In essence, I wanted to know if there was predictive academic
value in what kindergarteners did at recess, beyond that information provided
in their kindergarten academic achievement, as measured by a standardized
test score. How much did recess activities tell us, beyond test scores, about how
well kindergarteners would do in first grade?
My hypothesis was that the recess behavior would tell us a great deal. After
all, when kids are on the playground they are typically interacting with their
peers, and to do so takes some pretty sophisticated skills. For example, to play
cooperatively with their peers, children have to be able and willing to see things
from the perspectives of their peers, use compromise to resolve conflicts, follow
the rules of play and games, and use language to negotiate all of this. Indeed, we
know that the types of language kids use to negotiate conflicts and compromise
are very similar to the language of school instruction (Heath 1983) and the
language of literacy (Pellegrini and Galda 1982).
Further, when kids manipulate and build with playground materials and
when they play games—such as tag—with their peers, they are motivated to
marshal their social cognitive resources. Children generally like to interact
with their peers at recess, so they try their best to initiate and sustain play.
For instance, one may have to compromise (share a toy or a turn) in order to
continue to play with one’s best friend. One typically does this because one is
motivated to do so, perhaps more so than to perform on an achievement test.
Tests, at least for most young kids, are not very motivating.
These kindergarten behavioral measures that I developed and adminis-
tered did indeed predict first-grade achievement, beyond the kindergarten test
scores. That is, these playground behaviors were correlated with first-grade test
scores, even after kindergarten test scores were statistically controlled. This
reinforces the notion that multiple measures should be used in “high-stakes”
assessments.
In an effort to change policy in the state of Georgia, my friend and colleague
Carl Glickman and I wrote articles for such publications as the Atlanta Journal
Constitution and Principal to publicize our finding to the general public and
educators of young children. Afterward, testing policies changed in Georgia, but
efforts to minimize or eliminate recess continued to grow, both in the United

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186 A m E R I C A N J O u R N A L O F P L A Y   •   F a l l 2 0 0 8

States and the United Kingdom, where I was also conducting research. Policy
makers, teachers, parents, newspapers, and radio and television stations in both
countries began contacting me and asking about recess.

The Reduction of Recess in the united States
and the united Kingdom

An important barometer of prevailing perceptions of the importance of recess
is the way in which recess time has eroded across the last fifteen years. One of
the first surveys of recess in the United States was conducted in 1989 by the
National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), which kindly
sent me their findings. The survey went to school superintendents in all fifty
states and the District of Columbia. Responses were received from forty-seven
states and showed that recess existed, in some form, in 90 percent of all school
districts. Generally, individual schools (87 percent of those reporting) set re-
cess policy. Consequently, there was significant variation both within school
districts and within states. Ninety-six percent of the schools with recess had it
once or twice per day. In 75 percent of the schools with recess, it lasted fifteen
to twenty minutes. The survey did not report what form that recess took or
whether organized physical education was counted as recess. Indeed, about
one-half of the districts with recess had “structured” times.
Regarding recess supervision, the survey indicated that teachers assumed
responsibility in 50 percent of the cases and teachers’ aides in 36 percent. Among
the aides, 86 percent had no formal training for supervision. This is not a trivial
finding. A well-trained supervisor can both support the positive social interac-
tions of children and guard against aggression and bullying.
Ten years later, the U.S. Department of Education surveyed recess in kin-
dergarten. According to a summary provided to the author by Ithel Jones, As-
sociate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Florida State University, 71
percent of surveyed kindergartens reported having a daily recess period; 14.6
percent had recess three to four times per week; 6.7 percent had recess one to
two times per week; and 7.7 percent had no recess. Regarding the duration of
recess, 27 percent had thirty minutes; 67 percent had sixteen to thirty minutes;
and 6 percent had less than fifteen minutes. Children attending private kinder-
gartens were twice as likely to have recess as children attending public schools:
48.3 percent vs. 22.2 percent.

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While a direct comparison with the 1989 survey is not possible, there are
some interesting points to consider. Most interesting is that in kindergarten only
70 percent of the children had daily recess. If there is one grade where we would
assume that all children would have recess daily, it would be kindergarten.
In the late 1990s, British psychologist Peter Blatchford and colleagues (Blatch-
ford and Sumpner 1998) conducted a national survey of recess (called “break
time” in England) in primary and secondary schools across the United Kingdom.
Their 60 percent return rate produced a sample of 6 percent of all English schools.
Importantly, recess in the United Kingdom is uniform compared to recess in the
United States. In the United Kingdom, schools have a morning, lunch, and after-
noon break. The Blatchford survey showed that while students across all grades
had breaks, the duration decreased with age. Children in infant school (five to
seven years of age) had ninety-three minutes; children in junior school (seven to
eleven years of age) had eighty-three minutes; and children in secondary school
(eleven to sixteen years of age) had seventy-seven minutes. Clearly, English chil-
dren had much more recess than their American counterparts, and the duration
of the periods seemed more sensitive to the maturity of the students.
There is, however, a movement against recess in the United Kingdom as
well. The issues propelling this movement are very similar to those in the United
States and have been very evident in the media. There, too, pressure has resulted
in a reduction in break time. Within the five-year period from 1990–1991 to
1995–1996, 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively, of junior and secondary
schools reduced the lunch break. Among infant schools, 26 percent reduced
the lunch break and 12 percent eliminated the afternoon break. Twenty-seven
percent of the junior schools and 14 percent of the secondary schools eliminated
the afternoon break.
One would think that such drastic change should be directed by empirical
support, but, no, on the contrary, research supports keeping recess in schools.

Benefits of Recess for School Performance

There are two main arguments for the continued presence of recess in pri-
mary schools. The first is evidence of how learning benefits from “distributed
practice” (like the example of taking a break during highway driving noted
earlier), which recess affords. The second concerns the development of cogni-
tive efficiency and how recess may especially facilitate learning in younger and

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188 A m E R I C A N J O u R N A L O F P L A Y   •   F a l l 2 0 0 8

cognitively immature children. Both of these arguments propose that benefits
associated with recess are immediate, that is, they occur almost simultaneously
with the recess behaviors themselves.

Massed vs. distributed practice
We have known for many years (e.g., Ebinghaus 1885; James 1901) that children
learn better and more quickly when their efforts toward a task are distributed
rather than concentrated or when they are given breaks during tasks (Hunter
1929). As psychologist Frank Dempster pointed out (1988), the positive effects
of distributed effort have been seen specifically in the ways children learn how
to conduct numerous school-like tasks, such as mastering native- and foreign-
language vocabularies, text materials, and math facts. Laboratory studies have
yielded reliable and robust findings, documenting the efficacy of task spacing
on learning. Indeed, the theory has been supported by research with humans
across the life span and with a variety of other animals.
Classroom studies have been less frequent, and generally the results less
supportive of the theory. Factors associated with the nature of a task (e.g., simple
vs. complex) seem to influence the effects of distributed practice on classroom
learning. However, when the nature of the criterion variable is changed from
material learned to attention to the task at hand, the results of the classroom
research match those of the laboratory. Spacing of tasks may make them less
boring and correspondingly facilitate attention. Attention to a task, in turn,
may be important to subsequent learning (Dempster 1988).
Given the positive effects of distributed practice on children’s attention to
school tasks, it seems puzzling that it has not been more readily used in class-
rooms. One possibility, as suggested by Dempster (1988), is that the complicated
contingencies of running a school may not readily accommodate the added
complexities of a distributed practice regimen. The solution to this conundrum
is simple—use a well-established school institution, recess. Recess provides a
break between school tasks, thus distributing practice.

Developmental differences in cognitive efficiency
Psychologist David F. Bjorklund and I have suggested previously (Pellegrini
and Bjorklund 1997), based on Bjorklund’s theory of “cognitive immaturity”
(Bjorklund and Green 1992), that the facilitative effects of breaks between peri-
ods of intense work should be greater for younger than for older children. From
our position, young children do not process most information as effectively

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as older children. The immaturity of their nervous systems and their lack of
experiences render them unable to perform higher-level cognitive tasks with the
same efficiency as older children and adults, and this directly influences their
educability. As a result, young children are especially susceptible to the effects
of interference and should experience the greatest gains from breaks between
focused intellectual activities, which recess provides.
Evidence in support of this hypothesis can be found in the literature on
memory and cognitive inhibition. Research using a wide range of tasks has
shown that children are increasingly able, as they get older, to inhibit task-ir-
relevant thoughts and to resist interference from task-irrelevant stimuli, and
that such skills contribute significantly to overall cognitive functioning (e.g.,
Bjorklund and Harnishfeger 1990). Inhibition abilities have been proposed to
play a significant role in attention, permitting children to focus on task-relevant
information and not to be distracted by task-irrelevant, peripheral information.
Such abilities have also been proposed to be of central importance to functional
working-memory capacity. Young children have a difficult time keeping extra-
neous information from entering short-term store. As a result, their working
memories are often cluttered with irrelevant information, leaving less mental
space for task-relevant information or for the execution of cognitive strategies
(Bjorklund and Harnishfeger 1990).
From this perspective, there may be a general increase in interference when
children perform a series of highly focused tasks, regardless of the nature of
those tasks. Although one would predict that changing from one type of focused
activity to another would yield some cognitive benefit, children (especially
young children) may experience a continued buildup of interference with re-
peated performance of even different highly focused tasks, and thus experi-
ence greater benefit from a drastic change in activity, such as is afforded by
recess. This is consistent with the evidence that younger children may require
a greater change in activity or stimulus materials before they experience a re-
lease from interference (e.g., Pellegrini and Bjorklund 1996). This should make
school learning particularly difficult for young elementary school children, and
opportunities to engage in non-focused, nonintellectual activities should af-
ford them the needed respite to re-energize their nervous systems so that they
can continue to learn in school. Consistent with this reasoning, recess periods
across the school day should minimize cognitive interference. Importantly,
instructional regimens, such as physical education, would not serve the same
purpose.

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190 A m E R I C A N J O u R N A L O F P L A Y   •   F a l l 2 0 0 8

Conclusion

Some devalue recess because they assume it to be—as they assume play in
young children to be—a waste of time, time that could be otherwise more ef-
ficiently spent. There is no theory or empirical evidence to support this point
of view. The counter-argument, that recess is good, is backed by a large body
of theory and empirical research. Those who advocate the elimination of recess
should present sound theoretical and empirical support for their arguments
or give them up and recognize the abundant and clear evidence that recess
has beneficial effects on children’s social competence and academic perfor-
mance.

References

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Blatchford, Peter, and Clare Sumpner. 1998. What do we know about breaktime? Re-
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———. 1991. Outdoor recess: Is it really necessary? Principal 70:40.
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Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for
Children at Risk
Volume

6

Issue 2 Nutrition and Food Insecurity Article

7

201

5

Sugar In School Breakfasts: A School District’s
Perspective
Jennifer G. Lengyel MS, RDN, LD
Houston Independent School District, jgriffi4@houstonisd.org

Nan Cramer RDN, LD
Houston Independent School District, ncramer@houstonisd.org

Amanda Oceguera MS, RDN, LD
Houston Independent School District, aoceguer@houstonisd.org

Lana Pigao MA
Houston Independent School District, ypigao@houstonisd.org

Houston Independent School District, Nutrition Services Department

Follow this and additional works at: http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/childrenatrisk

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Recommended Citation
Lengyel, Jennifer G. MS, RDN, LD; Cramer, Nan RDN, LD; Oceguera, Amanda MS, RDN, LD; Pigao, Lana MA; and Houston
Independent School District, Nutrition Services Department (2015) “

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    Introduction

    For Houston Independent School District (ISD) Nutrition Services,
    managing the school food operations of the seventh largest school district
    in the nation can be a great challenge and opportunity. It takes the
    collaboration of more than 14 departments and 2,400 employees to serve
    280,000 meals every day across Houston, one of the largest metropolitan
    areas in the nation. To be able to create a menu that balances nutrition
    with student acceptability is an incredible feat. We are consistently trying
    to provide meals that students will consume while enjoying the health
    benefits.
    A recent series of emails and phone calls from parents concerned
    about the sugar content of Houston ISD’s school breakfasts revealed that
    a new issue had risen to the surface. Some parents were counting the
    grams of sugar in our breakfast menus and reported that they believed
    there was too much sugar to be healthy for children. This prompted us to
    look closely at the sugar content of our breakfast items and the source of
    the sugar.

    Houston ISD, along with all school districts participating in the
    National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program, follows a strict set
    of regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
    under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. This Act put in
    place a new set of nutrition standards and meal patterns for school
    breakfast and lunch in response to the growing epidemic of childhood
    obesity in the U.S. The nutrition standards limit calories, saturated fat,
    and sodium, and ban artificial trans-fat in school meals (see Table 1).
    HHFKA also made a significant change to the breakfast meal pattern by
    increasing the fruit minimum from a half cup to one cup and having no
    requirement for the protein rich meat/meat alternate food group.
    Additionally, although we have consciously decided not to place specific
    sweet items on our breakfast menu, the sugar content of our breakfasts is
    being scrutinized. Ironically, the federal standards do not address the
    sugar content in school breakfasts. Whether this is an oversight or the
    authors of the law intentionally did not limit sugar, the result is the same:
    breakfast meals that are higher in sugar because of the requirement of
    one cup of fruit, 1 cup of milk (both which have natural sugar).
    Furthermore, restrictions on fat and the lack of requirement for protein
    foods result in carbohydrates, including natural sugar, as the main source
    of calories. Herein, we would like to provide the perspective of a school
    food service organization concerning sugar in breakfast, and present the

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    challenges and efforts made to provide students with healthy, well-
    balanced school breakfasts.

    National school lunch program and the school breakfast program
    background and history

    In an effort to describe our viewpoint about the sugar content of our
    breakfast menus, it is important to provide the reader with the context of
    the school meal programs history and purpose. School meal nutrition
    standards, which were initially put in place to assure adequate nutrition for
    an underfed population of children, have been adapted through the years
    to meet the current standards that aim to address an overfed, yet
    undernourished, population of children.

    In the early part of the 20th century, individual cities and states had
    enacted various versions of a school lunch program to improve nutrition
    and feed needy children. Due to a limit in state and local funds, the federal
    government stepped in, and in 1946, the 79th legislature enacted the
    National School Lunch Act. The purpose of the Act was “to safeguard the
    health and well-being of the Nation’s children and…assist the States, in
    providing an adequate expansion of nonprofit school lunch programs.”1
    Lunches served by schools participating in the school lunch program were
    required to meet minimum nutritional requirements prescribed by the
    Secretary [of Agriculture] on the basis of tested nutritional research.”1 The
    aim of these meal patterns was to provide school-aged children with one-
    third of their daily nutrient requirements. As dietary recommendations
    evolved with the expansion of nutrition research, various changes were
    made to the school lunch meal requirements during the subsequent 63
    years leading up to the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act in 2010.

    The School Breakfast Program began in 1966 as a pilot-grant
    program to provide assistance serving breakfast to nutritionally needy
    children. By 1975, the program was permanently authorized by congress.
    The breakfast meal pattern was designed to provide one-quarter of the
    daily nutrient requirements of school-aged children.

    Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 and USDA Breakfast Meal
    Pattern

    The current Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) nutrition standards
    are based on the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and recommendations
    made by the Institute of Medicine. The guidelines recommend a balance
    of calories and physical activity, increased intake of fruits and vegetables,

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    whole grains, low fat and fat-free dairy, and a reduction in saturated fats,
    trans fats, sodium, cholesterol and sugar.2 In addressing sugar in the
    diet, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend the reduction of added sugar
    and sugar sweetened beverages without quantifying a recommended
    amount of total sugar per day. The guidelines point out that a reduction of
    added sugars would lower calories without compromising the nutritional
    quality of the diet. The HHFKA breakfast and lunch nutrition standards
    generally follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines but fail to address added
    sugar in foods. Table 1 outlines the USDA meal pattern and nutrition
    guidelines for school breakfast.3

    The USDA has strived to improve student health and reduce
    childhood obesity through HHFKA in 2010; however, there have been
    numerous challenges in implementing those changes. For example, the
    recent enforcement of the additional breakfast requirements and how it
    affects the sugar content in school breakfasts. The current breakfast meal
    pattern requires a minimum of one full cup of fruit, one full cup of milk, and
    one ounce whole grain offered each day. In addition, there must be a
    minimum of four items available for students to select, and three must be
    chosen, at least one of which is a fruit or vegetable, in order for the cost of
    that meal to be reimbursed by the federal government. The breakfast
    items are cumulatively analyzed on a daily and weekly basis to also
    ensure that the menu is meeting calorie requirements, saturated fat, and
    sodium restrictions (see Table 1). Of note, there are no requirements for
    meat or meat alternates in the USDA breakfast meal pattern, meaning that
    fruit, milk, and grains that provide calories mainly through carbohydrates,
    are the predominate foods at school breakfast. These regulations can
    greatly affect the breakfast menus, and in regards to the sugar content,
    can make it challenging for a school district to minimize added sugar due
    to calorie minimums, the inability to distinguish added vs. natural sugar,
    budget constraints, availability and variety of breakfast items, and many
    other factors described herein.

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    Table 1 Summary of Current USDA Breakfast Meal Pattern Requirements

    Houston ISD Nutrition Services Breakfast Program and Challenges in
    Minimizing Sugar Content

    Feeding a population of students, 80% of which are from economically
    disadvantaged homes, is a significant responsibility. Many of our students
    receive the majority of their nutrient intake from school meals. Students
    may receive up to three meals and a snack each day at school. The
    Houston ISD menus are developed through a collaboration of dietitians,
    chefs, cost analyst, operations, and production teams.

    Breakfast is especially important in providing nutrition and
    improving academic performance, according to research cited by the Food
    Research and Action Center.4 In an effort to improve access to breakfast
    at Houston ISD, in 2009 we began implementation of a program called
    First Class Breakfast that offers free breakfast to all students at all of our
    schools. Currently, we serve more than 118,000 students each morning.
    Serving breakfast in the classroom ensures students have the opportunity
    to eat breakfast if they did not eat at home. Often parents and school
    buses drop off students just before the bell rings, making it impossible for
    students to eat a traditional school breakfast in the cafeteria. In addition,
    most of the cafeterias are not designed to accommodate service to the
    entire student body in a single breakfast period. Serving breakfast in the
    classroom also removes the stigma that school breakfast is exclusively for
    economically disadvantaged students. Regardless of the roadblocks, we

    Components

    Amount

    Per Week

    Amount per

    day

    Amount

    Per Week

    Amount

    per day

    Amount

    Per Week

    Amount

    per day

    Fruit 5 cups 1 cup 5 cups 1 cup 5 cups 1 cup

    Grains (ounce eq) 7oz 1oz 8 oz 1oz 9oz 1oz

    Meat/Meat Alt.* 0 0 0 0 0 0

    Milk 5 cups 1 cup 5 cups 1 cup 5 cups 1 cup

    Calories (min-max)

    Sodium (maximum)**

    Saturated Fat (% of

    calories)

    Trans Fat Nutrition label or manufacturer specif ications must indicate zero grams of trans fat per serving

    <10% <10% <10%

    USDA Breakfast Meal Pattern

    * 1oz meat/meat alternate can count toward 1oz grain once daily mimimum grain requirement is met.

    K – 5 6-8 9-

    12

    350-500 kcal 400-550 450-650

    540mg 600mg 570mg

    ** 2014/2015 school year sodium levels. Sodium maximums will have further reductions in 2017/2018

    school year and again in 2022/2023 school year.

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    make every effort to provide one of the most important “school supplies”
    children need to be successful in school and beyond.

    Table 2 Sample HISD Breakfast Menu

    There are two different methods of breakfast service in Houston
    ISD schools in accordance with USDA regulations: straight serve and offer
    vs. serve. With the straight serve method, students must take all foods on
    the menu. With the offer vs. serve method, students are only required to
    take three food items, one of which must be a ½ cup of fruit. This means
    that they do not need to take both fruits offered, nor are they required to
    take the milk. Adding up all of the grams of sugar on our entire breakfast
    menu does not give the correct amount of sugar that students would
    consume in most cases because the students might not select all of the
    items offered. An example would be if the menu offered pancakes, cereal
    bar, banana, apple juice and milk. A student could select the pancakes,
    banana and milk only. Or he/she could choose the cereal bar, banana
    and apple juice, etc. Offer vs. serve method helps to reduce waste in the

    Week 1

    Monday

    Oatmeal Bar

    18g sugar, 270 calories

    Dried Cranberrries

    24g sugar, 110 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, 60 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Average sugar: 53 grams

    Average Calories: 482

    Week 2

    Monday
    Texas Cinnamon Toast

    8g sugar, 146 calories

    Apple Slices

    6g sugar, 30 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, 60 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Average sugar: 50.2 grams

    Average Calories: 475

    Current Straight Serve Menus (K-5)

    FridayThursdayWednesdayTuesday

    Apple,

    15.5g sugar, 77 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Multigrain Oat Cereal

    6g sugar, 100 calories

    Oatmeal Bar

    9g sugar, 140 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, 60 calories

    Apple,

    15.5g sugar, 77 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, 60 calories

    Blueberry Waffles

    7g sugar calories

    Apple Muffin

    15.5g sugar, 199 calories

    Chicken Biscuit

    8g sugar, 285 calories

    Peach Cup

    16g sugar, 80 calories

    Raspberry Yogurt

    12g sugar, 80 calories

    Banana

    16.5g sugar, 121 calories

    Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
    Chicken Biscuit

    8g sugar , 285 calories

    Frosted Corn Cereal (Red. Sugar)

    7g sugar, 100 calories

    Maple Pancakes

    14g sugar, 230 calories

    Beef Kolache

    5g sugar, 284 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Milk

    12g sugar, 100 calories

    Dried Cranberries

    24g sugar, 110 calories

    Oatmeal Bar

    9g sugar, 140 calories

    Banana

    16.5g sugar, 121 calories

    Raisins

    22g sugar, 113 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, 60 calories

    Apple

    15.5g sugar, 77 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, 60 calories

    Fruit Juice Blend

    14g sugar, K 60 calories

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    Lengyel et al.: Sugar In School Breakfasts: A School District’s Perspective

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    Average Sugar: 44.77 grams

    Average Calories: 40

    9

    Average Sugar: 43.09 grams

    Average Calories: 419

    Current Offer Vs. Serve Menu

    Week 1 Week 2

    breakfast programs by allowing students the option to select what food
    they want to eat.

    The grams of sugar and calories in the offer vs. serve menu reflect
    the averages of the foods the students actually choose. As apparent from
    Table 3, the straight serve menu contains more sugar and calories than
    the offer vs. serve menu since students are taking all the menu items. It is
    important to note that for both methods of service the total average
    calories and grams of sugar are based on what the students received for
    breakfast, not what they actually consumed. Only a series of tray waste
    studies would allow us to determine actual sugar intake among our
    students.

    Table 3 Calorie and Sugar Weekly Averages for Breakfast

    As mentioned
    previously, the USDA
    breakfast meal pattern
    requires fruit, milk, and
    whole grain to be offered

    at each breakfast; all are sources of carbohydrates. Federal regulations
    for the school breakfast program set a range of minimum and maximum
    number of calories allowed for a Kindergarten-5th grade breakfast at 350-
    500 calories. The Institute of Medicine recommends 45% of calories
    come from carbohydrate. In that case, the breakfast would have about 56
    grams of carbohydrate. Unfortunately, the federal guidelines for breakfast
    result in a breakfast meal that has a higher percentage of calories coming
    from carbohydrate and potentially in the form of sugar.

    It is important to mention that the other sources of calories in a
    meal are protein and fat, but according to the HHFKA Nutrition Standards,
    there is no requirement for protein in school breakfast and many of the
    breakfast items offered are required to be low in fat, such as the milk.
    However, schools may substitute meat/meat alternatives for grain
    components after the minimum daily grains requirement is met. Due to
    the lack in requirement for meat/meat alternate items and the typical
    higher cost of these items, meat/meat alternates are not offered daily. If
    offered, they are usually categorized as a grain component in order to
    meet the breakfast meal pattern daily minimums. This results in school
    breakfast menus that are missing a considerate amount of protein and
    calories from protein (4 kcal/g) and potentially contain higher amounts of
    carbohydrates and sugars.

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    Cumulatively, carbohydrate sources can contribute to the sugar
    content at breakfast, however, it is important to note the two different
    types of sugar: natural and added. According to the Dietary Guidelines for
    Americans, natural sugars are those found in whole foods like fluid milk
    and milk products (lactose) and fruit (fructose); sugars that are added to
    foods for preservation, processing, or palatability purposes are called
    “added sugars.” In one school breakfast meal, an average of 37g of total
    sugar is attributed to natural sugars found in milk and fruit alone. Based
    on the current information available and data from Table 3, we can
    estimate 6-16 g of sugar in our menus is derived from added sugar.
    However, currently the accuracy of the estimated total grams of added
    sugar cannot be verified due to a lack in label differentiation between the
    two types of sugar.

    Image 1. FDA Proposed Label

    One of the significant
    challenges in controlling the
    sugar content at breakfast is the
    ability to analyze the amount of
    total added sugar in a menu and
    in individual breakfast items. The
    U.S. Dietary Guidelines
    recommend that a person
    consume no more than 10% of
    calories from added sugar.
    However, most nutrition fact
    labels for foods do not distinguish
    natural vs. added sugar; it
    appears only as “sugar” that
    includes both added and naturally
    occurring. Currently, the FDA is
    proposing a new label to solve
    this issue by requiring
    manufacturers to list the amount

    of sugar added during the production process and therefore differentiate
    the two types of sugar (see Image 1)5. In the interim, a lack of nutrition
    facts label information makes it difficult to distinguish natural from added
    sugars, and therefore a challenge to reduce total added sugar in school
    breakfast, despite Houston ISD Nutrition Services’ efforts (see Table 2 for
    menu example).

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    The USDA School Breakfast Program requirements changed in
    2014, increasing fruit servings to a full cup for breakfast. Due to this
    requirement change we have added juice since many fruits such as a
    whole banana, equals only half a cup of fruit; instead of giving students
    two bananas we offer one banana and ½ a cup of juice to meet the
    requirement. Each half-cup of fruit adds 10 to 15 grams of sugar to the
    breakfast meal. We offer dried fruit one to two times a week on high
    school menus for variety and due to high acceptability, adding 22-24
    grams in mostly added sugar.

    When serving more than 118,000 breakfasts per day with a less
    than one-dollar budget per breakfast, providing nutritious student accepted
    items while meeting federal requirements can be arduous. The additional
    fruit offering results in an additional cost that then takes away from the
    amount that can be spent on higher quality or more expensive breakfast
    items. For example, on average most fresh fruit items cost $0.20 for ½
    cup, then because 1 cup of fruit must be offered at breakfast, fruit alone
    can contribute to 50% or more of the total food cost for the entire breakfast
    meal. Often, lower cost fruit juice is served to meet the fruit requirement,
    maintain cost constraints, and provide variety to the fruit offerings.

    In addition, fruit accessibility and diversity has been a challenge.
    With the increase in required daily fruit offerings at breakfast in
    combination with years of drought and environmental issues, many school
    districts, especially large districts including Houston ISD, have
    experienced numerous produce shortages and resulted in a lack of
    selection. We prefer to serve fresh fruit, however we are limited on the
    variety of whole fruit on the breakfast menu due to our limited budget and
    narrowed vendor availability. While we do sometimes get fruits from the
    USDA Foods Commodity program to assist with the cost, we only have
    them available on a limited basis. In addition, principals have requested
    that certain fruits, such as whole oranges, not be served in the classrooms
    for breakfast because they are messy, further limiting the variety of fruit.
    In many cases, there have been whole fruits that were planned to be
    served on the breakfast menu but due to crop shortages, inclement
    weather patterns or price fluctuations, those fruits had to be replaced with
    canned, dried or juice alternatives. These alternatives can be more easily
    available or affordable, but at the same time less nutrient dense and/or
    contain more added sugar for food preservation purposes, functional
    attributes, and palatability. These barriers combined restrict accessibility
    and increase budgetary constraints, which unfortunately makes fresh fruit
    a limited commodity.

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    Houston ISD Nutrition Services’ Efforts to Reduce Sugar Content in
    Breakfast

    With 80% of the Houston ISD population being economically
    disadvantaged, it is important to us that students consume the food in
    school in order to get key nutrients they may not be getting outside of
    school. Albeit at times, there can be many challenges to creating healthy
    school breakfast meals, Houston ISD Nutrition Services is aware of
    elevated sugar content and has been making efforts to reduce sugar
    levels in school breakfasts. Chocolate milk is not offered at breakfast;
    only skim or low-fat milk is available. Also, we do not offer breakfast
    sweet rolls or pastries with icing or excessive added sugar, including
    pastry tarts, cinnamon rolls, donuts, honey buns, etc. We serve whole-
    grain rich versions of grain items that are lower in sugar, such as reduced-
    sugar breakfast cereals. Many of the breakfast products that we purchase
    are actually lower in fat, sodium, and sugar and higher in fiber and
    complex carbohydrates than their commercial equivalent. We are required
    to serve whole grains, low fat proteins, low sodium and we strive to serve
    low sugar products. For example, the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal we
    serve at Houston ISD is whole grain and lower in sugar than the regular
    version sold in a grocery store. However, our students are familiar with
    this product so the consumption rate is high. These efforts aid in balancing
    food flavors with student acceptance so that students are consuming the
    breakfast items because “it’s not nutrition if they don’t eat it” according to
    Registered Dietitian, Dayle Hayes.

    Furthermore, Houston ISD Nutrition Services is continually meeting
    with manufacturers to discuss removing unnecessary additives from their
    ingredients and improve their products. Many of the manufacturers have
    responded by eliminating additives such as Mono Sodium Glutamate. We
    will continue to collaborate with manufacturers and push for reformulation
    of products to reduce added sugar levels in breakfast items.

    Additionally, Houston ISD Nutrition Services makes efforts to
    control the ingredients in school food by producing in-house, semi-
    homemade items in our state-of-the-art centralized food production facility.
    Our research and development chefs and production team create items
    such as whole-grain-rich beef kolaches, sweet potato spice and apple
    muffins, and chicken biscuits. With scratch made production items, we
    can include whole grain, complex carbohydrates and techniques such as
    using vegetables like sweet potatoes or whole fruits like apples and
    blueberries, to add flavor and nutrition to our recipes instead of added
    sugar.

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    We recognize that whole fruit has more nutritional benefits and fiber
    than fruit juice and less added sugar than dried fruit so when possible,
    fresh fruit appears on the breakfast menus. Houston ISD Nutrition
    Services has made great strides to build relationships with produce
    vendors and implement processes to aid in procuring more whole fruits
    and increasing the variety of options offered. We have also begun to
    participate in programs such as Harvest of the Month and Farm-to-School
    in which there is a focus on local and seasonal purchasing and nutrition
    education of fruits and vegetables. These programs have allowed us to
    increase locally sourced produce, educate students and encourage
    consumption of fresh fruits. In addition to these efforts, Nutrition Services
    will be reducing the number of days that juice is offered and dried
    cranberries will be removed from the elementary menu to further reduce
    sugar content.

    As mentioned previously, there is no USDA requirement for protein,
    meat or meat alternates. Nutrition Services has committed to increasing
    the meat and meat alternates to replace grain products when possible by
    adding items to the menu such as cheese toast, sausage biscuit,
    breakfast taco, breakfast egg sandwich, etc. This will aid in achieving
    adequate calories and protein without adding carbohydrates or added
    sugar.

    In an effort to reduce food waste, most of our schools serve
    breakfast using the “offer vs. serve” method. Since this type of service
    does not require students to take all items, it helps to reduce overall food
    waste. Also, throughout the school year, we have conducted informal
    plate waste studies and taste tests to verify that items are not only healthy
    but also accepted and consumed by students. We plan to continue these
    techniques and are currently in the process of formulating a more
    standardized procedure that will further aid in our ability to create and
    menu different breakfast items with less added sugar while reducing food
    waste.

    School food service is not just about putting food on a tray.
    Houston ISD Nutrition Services recognizes the importance of serving
    school meals to students and the opportunities that lie in shaping their
    eating behaviors and life-long health. School food is a conduit for nutrition
    education and is the reason we make every effort to incorporate nutrition
    messaging into the school cafeteria and beyond. Our nutrition education
    and community outreach dietitians work with our culinary team to reach
    out to students and communities to educate on why we serve nutritious
    foods.

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    Conclusion

    School nutrition programs follow the strict guidelines set forth by the
    USDA and within that framework of the meal pattern and the nutrition
    guidelines is a limit to how much the sugar content at breakfast can be
    decreased. In the solutions outlined above, we strive to reduce added
    sugars while operating a program within our budgetary constraints and
    with menu items that the students will consume. Our breakfasts provide
    nutrition for growing bodies and fuel for the minds of our students so that
    they can achieve their academic potential and therefore require special
    consideration and attention.

    If the public and parents desire more reduction in the sugar content
    of breakfast, seeking policy changes at the federal level would be
    required. These changes could be to require meat/meat alternates,
    reduction in fruit requirement, and an increase in funding to include more
    protein items and higher quality products. Parents can impact the nutrition
    standards by providing feedback during USDA public comment periods for
    the School Breakfast Program and voicing opinions to local, state, and
    federal policy makers. Changes in the Nutrition Facts Labels to
    distinguish added sugars would also aid in our selection of food items with
    less added sugar for our menus. New labeling could also drive the food
    industry to reformulate items with less added sugar and develop new
    savory products with higher protein, adequate calories, and lower sugar
    content. We will continue to listen to our communities concerns and to
    seek solutions in order to serve students the most nutritious breakfast
    meals.

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    References:

    1. Public Law 79-396; Stat. 231 Congress, June 4, 1946.

    2. 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Office of Disease Prevention and Health

    Promotion, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of the

    Secretary, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    website. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010/ . Published

    December 2010. Updated December 7, 2015. Accessed October

    1, 2015.

    3. Nutrition Standards for School Meals: New Meal Patterns and

    Dietary Specifications. USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.

    http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/nutrition-standards-school-

    meals . Published January 2012. Updated August 11, 2015.

    Accessed October 5, 2015.

    4. School Meals and School Wellness Publications: Breakfast for

    Learning Brief. Food Research and Action Center website.

    http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/breakfastforlearning

    Published Spring 2014. Accessed October 5, 2015.

    5. Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. U.S. Food and Drug

    Administration website.

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocuments

    RegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

    Updated October 23, 2015. Accessed October 2, 2015.

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    http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010/

    http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/nutrition-standards-school-meals

    http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/nutrition-standards-school-meals

    http://frac.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/breakfastforlearning

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

    http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

      Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk

      2015

      Sugar In School Breakfasts: A School District’s Perspective

      Jennifer G. Lengyel MS, RDN, LD

      Nan Cramer RDN, LD

      Amanda Oceguera MS, RDN, LD

      Lana Pigao MA

      Houston Independent School District, Nutrition Services Department

      Recommended Citation

    • tmp.1451577005 .FU36c

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