Thursday, September 22, 2011

Canada's national Breakfast for Learning program promotes Nutella as nutritious?!

According to Breakfast for Learning's About Us page,

"Breakfast for Learning is the leading, national non-profit organization solely dedicated to child nutrition programs in Canada."

And is,

"a strong voice for child nutrition that advocates for national meal program in Canada and quality nutrition in schools."
Sounds good so far.

So riddle me this. How is it that this leading, national, non-profit dedicated to child nutrition who advocates for "quality" nutrition, is sending me samples of Nutella that tell me, it'll "Fuel my Day" and that, "a balanced breakfast includes Nutella"?

For those who actually keep nutritional score, Nutella is a nightmare. It's got roughly 1/4 the protein of peanut butter and nearly 7 times the sugar. In fact for every tablespoon of Nutella, there are 2.5 teaspoons of sugar glommed in. That's just 1/2 a teaspoon shy of the amount of sugar you'd get in an actual tablespoon of sugar!

So maybe it's just Nutella taking liberties with their relationship with Breakfast for Learning. Maybe Nutella's including Breakfast for Learning's logo without permission and is doing so because they've agreed as per the box to donate (a measly) $10,000 from Facebook Likes to the program. Maybe Breakfast for Learning would be as horrified as I was to see their Nutella linkage.

Not so fast.

Here's an email I received from a teacher in the Maritimes who requested anonymity,
"I have been a teacher organizer of a morning breakfast program at my school for several years. One of the organizations that provides a lot of funding is Breakfast for Learning.

I was surprised to see that this year, Nutella is a main sponsor and recipes were provided to programs featuring their product and representing it as a healthy breakfast option. I'm concerned about this promotion in an organization the provides schools with money for nutrition programs.

They even require you to follow a specified list of appropriate foods, Nutella is now clearly featured. We are trying to help the kids make truly healthy choices and I worry that this one healthy meal may be jeopardized by a chocolate spread on their whole grain bread!
Tough to spin that positively for Breakfast for Learning.

There's a term for an organization such as Breakfast for Learning. Breakfast for Learning is a BINGO - a business-interest not-for-profit NGO. What other food industry players help to fund Breakfast for Learning? President's Choice, Sobeys, Ferraro, Unilever, Longos, Newman's Own, Kraft, The McCain Foundation, Moxie's Classic Grill and Nestle.

So do those sponsors wield influence?

As far as I'm concerned the only explanation for the inclusion of Nutella in any program that claims it cares about nutrition is food industry influence.

The question I'm struggling with is this - does Breakfast for Learning's Nutella escapades represent gross misdirection where great intentions were somehow usurped by wily folks from Ferraro, or is this an example of moral bankruptcy where Breakfast for Learning has somehow decided that the few dollars it receives from Ferraro are worth misinforming children and teachers about breakfast nutrition?

What's your vote? Gross misdirection, moral bankruptcy or do you have a third option?

[Hat tips to the anonymous teacher, my lovely wife, and blog reader Edie]

UPDATE: Have a letter from Breakfast for Learning. Short version is they deny sending out anything promoting Nutella. Having trouble embedding the PDF so asked them to send me a version I can cut and paste. When I get it, will do so.