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.

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  1. Diane9:32 am

    Nutella - sugar with a hint of cocao and hazelnuts. You couldn't pay me to feed that crap to my kids.

  2. This is unbelievable - it's sort of hard to even fathom that a nutrition focussed non-profit would even have a conversation with that brand, never mind shill their samples. I am (almost) speechless.

  3. I suppose it's not moral bankruptcy for the Breakfast for Learning organization, since it sounds like being an industry shill is their actual mission. (For the people who work there? That's another story.)

    Nutella is a particularly infuriating brand when it comes to misleading promotions. As a food blogger, I was approached by them last year to see if I'd be interested in working with them. They targeted me knowing full well that I write about healthful food. I politely told them to shove it.

  4. Sadly, many adults mistake Nutella for nutrition because it has nuts. Except that it has more oils, fats, and sugars than it has nuts and cocoa. From my viewpoint, it's no healthier than eating a chocolate bar -- and many chocolate bars are (arguably) healthier.

  5. This is shocking...or is it really. Just food companies pushing their crappy products. Always wondered why people have thought this was healthy for you. Keep up the great articles - love reading what you have to say.

  6. Personally, I love Nutella but I would never consider it a healthy component for any meal, just an occasional treat.

  7. AlisonH7:00 pm

    If you're feeding your kid Nutella for anything more than an occasional treat, there's something wrong with the bigger picture. Everything in moderation, and that includes sugar.

  8. Hey Yoni, if you're really having trouble with the PDF, you can either take a screen capture (alt, print screen) of it, or send it over to and get it converted for free.

  9. Christine Lauzon12:25 pm

    As a former BFL volunteer (Ontario Advisory Committee) and as a former student nutrition manager, I was shocked to receive the Nutella sample in the mail. Not only is it clearly NOT a product that should be served in breakfast programs as pointed out by other posts, the package design was beyond inappropriate. When my daugther took the sample out of the mailbox I thought she had a package of cigarettes in her hand. I showed the sample to a few other people and they all thought the same.

    As a funder of student nutrition programs, BFL has a responsibility to ensure that its sponsors are in line with their mission and core values. BFL also has the responsibility to ensure that their logo is used in an appropriate manner. Clearly someone dropped the ball on both issues here.

  10. My kids have Nutella on toast for breakfast sometimes! Along with a big glass of milk, maybe some cheese, some oatmeal, etc. I'm not sure why this is a problem! Kids love Nutella! I loved Nutella when I was a kid and so did my wife. Who didn't grow up eating Nutella? Our kids are tall for their ages and they are both involved in competitive sports at a very high level and they do well in school. Nobody is suggesting that you just put the jar of Nutella in front of your kid with a spoon! Get a grip! I think a lot of Canadians think breakfast is bacon and eggs EVERY day. A little Nutella is a nice way to start your morning!

  11. Becka P11:52 am

    I have to say I am leaning towards agreeing with Julius No's perspective. Many people have jam and honey without question at breakfast and they are high in sugar. Isn't sugar something we all need in certain amounts anyway especially active people, like my son? I agree that if used in the way intended (i.e. combined with healthy foods from Canada's Food Guide) then it's a great way to add some variety to breakfast and a much better option than lots of the things out there like fast food and poptarts or skipping breakfast altogether. My son is extremely active and I have trouble finding high energy foods he likes and he loves's not an every day thing but something different than just plain ol' cereal.