Collation Ecole

Morning snacks at school

Presentation of the work of the Agency

Eating habits acquired during childhood and adolescence are largely learnt at home and only to a lesser extent at school. These habits have a major influence on later behaviour. In this context, the Agency has issued several Opinions and Recommendations concerning morning snacks offered to children at school.

As a general rule, ANSES considers that it is preferable not to create opportunities for eating between formal meals (breakfast, lunch, "afternoon tea", supper) particularly in view of the need to restrict excessive daily energy intake. ANSES thus recommends that food should only be served at school in the framework of a formal meal, such as breakfast or "afternoon tea", and should not take the form of a separate snack.

The morning snack

Originally introduced in the 1950s to combat deficiencies and malnutrition in children, the morning snack consisted principally of milk intended to compensate for insufficient intake related to the absence of breakfast. This was later supplemented with other foods such as biscuits or chocolate, turning it into a more substantial and higher-energy snack, with high levels of simple carbohydrates and fats.

However, according to food surveys carried out by ANSES, only a minority of children over 3 rarely eat breakfast (6% of children from 3 to 14 had eaten 0 to 4 breakfasts in the week surveyed for the INCA 1 survey), or never eat it (only 1.4% of children from 3 to 17 had not eaten breakfast in the 7 days covered by the INCA 2 survey). Moreover, studies on calcium intake in children show that the levels are satisfactory. 

Therefore, the morning snack as offered in the past, to the entire class, does not take into account differences between the individual situations of each child.

Furthermore, a morning snack does nothing to help reduce the energy intake of subsequent meals (lunch and "afternoon tea"– INCA 1 data). On the contrary, it leads to a significant increase in daily energy intake of about 4%.

On the basis of these observations, the Agency considered, in an Opinion published in 2004, that the morning snack at school cannot be justified either by its composition, the time it is served, or its systematic and undifferentiated nature, and is not an appropriate response to the absence of breakfast.

The Agency recommends only giving children who have not yet eaten, and only on arrival at school and before the beginning of lessons, a balanced breakfast whose composition complies with the instructions of the Circular on school meals.

Based on the Agency's Opinion, the Education Ministry issued recommendations on the morning snack to the heads of local education authoritiesin 2004. These recommendations emphasise that educational, social and cultural considerations, whether geographical or socio-economic, should be taken into accountwhen organising morning snacks at school.

"A fruit for break-time"

As a part of the campaign "A fruit for break-time", launched by the authorities, which consists in distributing a portion of fruit to schoolchildren once a week for educational reasons, ANSES received a formal request to advise on the types, quantity and frequency for the distribution of nuts, dried fruit and seeds for the different target groups (primary, middle and high schools).

The expert appraisal carried out by ANSES concluded that there were no criteria on which to distinguish between the fruits potentially suitable for this campaign. The Agency recommends varying the types of fruit offered as much as possible, both fresh and dried. ANSES also recommends including the distribution of fruit in the context of formal meals, such as "afternoon tea", to bring the initiative in line with the recommendations concerning the withdrawal of snacks.

These suggestions were incorporated in the instructions for implementing the campaign.