CCSD defends breakfast program,
disputes ‘Slurpee’ claim

School district says sugar levels are ‘very low’
but doesn’t show levels on its nutrition charts

LAS VEGAS — The Clark County School District is defending its all-school-breakfast program, following last week’s Nevada Journal story featuring parents concerned over high sugar levels in the food and CCSD usurping parental rights.

According to the district, the amounts of sugar in the breakfast foods are very low, and children “do not have to take the breakfast, but must be offered breakfast.”

Virginia Beck, assistant director of procurement and production with CCSD’s Food Service department, said the breakfasts contain one-fourth of the nutrients children need in a day, and meets United States Department of Agriculture guidelines.

“All entrees offered are low in sugar and fat and contain the required nutrient,” Beck wrote in an e-mail. “A child who eats a sugar-coated cereal at home will get far more sugar than they [sic] receive from school breakfast.”

CCSD also disputed a parent’s claim that the district’s cinnamon rolls contain more sugar and carbohydrates than a 32-ounce Slurpee.

“Depending on the flavor, the Slurpee has 72 - 130 grams of sugar and 288 - 520 grams of carbohydrate,” Beck wrote. “Our cinnamon roll contains 11 grams of sugar and 60 grams of carbohydrate.”

Beck said she found the Slurpee nutritional info in dietary books. Nutrition labels posted by Slurpee’s distributing company, 7-11, though, tell a different story.

A 32-ounce Fanta Grape Slurpee, for example, contains 268 calories, 0 grams of fat, 72 grams of carbohydrates and 72 grams of sugar.

According to CCSD’s nutritional chart, the cinnamon roll contains 316 calories, 6 grams of fat and 60 grams of carbohydrates.

Sugar contents, however, are not listed on CCSD’s publicly available nutritional chart, since the USDA doesn’t require such listing. Nor are nutrition labels on the cinnamon-roll packaging.

Jeana Cheney, the PTA president at Martin Luther King Junior Elementary who made the Slurpee comparison, says if the district is going to feed children any type of food, there needs to be better communication between the district and parents.

“If the district thinks parents are misinformed, then it needs to do a better job of making sure parents have all the information at their disposal,” said Cheney.

“If you’re going to operate this program, do it right and keep parents informed every step of the way, because we [parents] aren’t in the breakfast line with our kids in the morning.”

According to the January 2012 USDA school meal guidelines, K-5 breakfasts must fall between 350 and 500 calories. However, the guidelines don’t say anything about approved amounts of sugar. Cheney finds that disturbing.

“You’d think given the concerns over child obesity and diabetes, all nutritional info would be readily available, but maybe the government and the schools don’t think it’s as important as parents do,” Cheney said.

The complete breakfast meal, according to Beck, consists of an entrée such as the cinnamon roll, a choice of 1 percent white or chocolate milk, juice, and a side of either yogurt, fruit or cheese.

The cinnamon-roll meal with white milk and fruit, according to the district’s nutritional data, would have 450 calories. Chocolate milk would push the meal over 500 calories, a level higher than that of a Burger King bacon, egg and cheese breakfast muffin, and about the same as a McDonald’s hamburger Happy Meal.

Donnell Barton, director of child nutrition and school health at the Nevada Department of Education, reaffirmed that all the breakfast programs are within USDA calorie guidelines, and said that meeting the students’ “nutritional needs” is the goal of the national program.

“I can’t speak for the Clark County School District but the purpose for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs is to provide for the nutritional needs of children,” Barton wrote in an e-mail. “Research has shown that a child who is nourished performs better in school.”

Cheney maintained that parents, not the district, should have the final say over their children’s meals.

“There are many comparisons you could make showing this breakfast isn’t good for our kids,” Cheney said. “There’s no question too many kids come to school hungry, but if the district feels it needs to take it upon itself to solve this problem, they need to do it the right way, and they need to be open with parents about this process.”

Kyle Gillis is a reporter for Nevada Journal, a publication of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more in-depth reporting, visit http://nevadajournal.com/ and http://npri.org/.

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Nevada Journal, a member of the Nevada Press Association (NPA) and Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), is an independent nonprofit reporting effort that adheres to the SPJ standards of professional journalism and specializes in in-depth and investigative journalism.

For the last 20 years, Nevada Journal has been published by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan public-policy think tank.

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