After waking up and preparing for school, sophomore Spencer Pendergrass heads straight to school, choosing not to stop for a bowl of cereal. Every weekday, Pendergrass consistently skips what has generally been considered the “most important” meal of the day: breakfast. While he cited time issues in the morning as the reason why he decides to skip breakfast every day, Pendergrass said the main factor that determined his decision was a lack of appetite.
“I’ve never woken up hungry,” Pendergrass said. “(I’ve) never had the urge to eat breakfast. I’d rather sleep in the extra 10 minutes than go downstairs and make breakfast.”
Pendergrass is just one of the 31 million Americans who go without a breakfast each day, according to a study released in October by the NPD Group, a marketing research company. According to cafeteria manager Anne-Marie Woerner, this school also sees this growing trend, especially in the data is has collected.
“We’re catching about 51 kids (every day) who are eating an actual breakfast,” Woerner said. “And what that means is that they’re buying all the components that we offer in the right combination to make what we call a reimbursable breakfast. Now, we see a lot of more kids who come through and get other items. Like, they might get two of the entrees and a bottle of water. So it’s not officially a breakfast, but they’re still buying food for breakfast.”
As for the causes of this trend, Woerner said she agreed that time is a major factor as to why the majority of students choose to skip their first meal of the day. The differences in students’ daily commute to school, according to Woerner, also affect their decisions to go without breakfast.
“Especially, I think, the kids who are driving to school are the ones not getting enough time to get breakfast. The kids who are driving and parking down at the stadium might not get enough time to go down the breakfast line on the go,” Woerner said.
While Rachel Miller, assistant director of food and nutrition services, said she agrees with Woerner on the time issue as a major factor, she also said she simply did not like the breakfast served at school when she was a child.
“For me, when I was kid, I just had no interest in (eating breakfast),” Miller said. “I just wasn’t hungry, and I don’t like sweet things in the morning, which is just a personal preference.”
According to senior Michael Wang, Miller’s views match his personal reasons for skipping breakfast. As a swimmer, Wang said his lack of urge to eat breakfast did not significantly affect his morning practices.
“I don’t really have an appetite in the morning,” Wang said. “Usually I just eat a lot for lunch. For afternoon practices, since I already ate lunch, (skipping breakfast) doesn’t really affect me that much.”
Pendergrass also said the only significant effect on his health or lifestyle from not eating breakfast daily, is that he compensates for his lack of breakfast by eating a large lunch.
“I guess I just eat a lot at lunch, and that’s really about it (regarding the effects of skipping breakfast),” Pendergrass said. “I really don’t think it affects my behavior at all. I think if I started eating breakfast, that’d mess me up. Like, I do fine at school and stuff without (breakfast).”
However, although students like Wang and Pendergrass said they believe there is no profound effect on their lives from not eating breakfast, Woerner said the effects of breakfast on students’ lives are significant.
“I guess the fallout we see here from kids not eating breakfast is in the nurse’s office,” Woerner said. “The nurses treat several kids a day due to headaches and stomachaches because they haven’t eaten anything. So even though they don’t have time to eat (breakfast) in the morning or think that they don’t need it, it catches up to them either in the form of a headache or stomachache.”
Kandyce Hardie, one of the registered nurses at this school, said she sees and treats multiple students every day for breakfast-related problems.
“In general, we definitely see at least a couple (students) every day for hunger reasons. It’s an everyday occurrence,” Hardie said. “By the time kids hit high school, as many as 20 to 30 percent of them are skipping breakfast regularly. Typically their complaints would be headaches. Some of them are nauseated because they have not eaten breakfast. And a lot of kids complain about inability to concentrate in the classroom.”
In addition to treating the students with nutritional snacks such as apple juice and crackers, Hardie said she also tries to educate the sick students on the importance of breakfast.
“(Breakfast) is important for your cognitive abilities, as well as athletics. With everything you do in life, you have to have food to make them work,” Hardie said.
Woerner also said students should increase their awareness of the importance of breakfast.
“It’s just sad because just a quick little bite of a few things really can have a bigger impact on their day,” Woerner said. “Whether it’s attention in class or feeling a little better just from a physical standpoint such as not having to deal with a headache, (eating breakfast) for just ten minutes can make a big difference on how the rest of your day looks.”