Here’s some more fascinating data from Nation’s Restaurant News. The shift of breakfast preferences from high school to college is fairly profound, although at the same time, we have to consider that the availability of these foods may not be the same in the two contexts. Are both of these datasets derived from what’s eaten at the respective cafeterias (as opposed to what’s brought in from home or bought on the way)? Certainly, the little note on the bottom of the chart “all items are ranked on menu importance” doesn’t explain anything at all. Maybe it’s an industry term, but we’d hesitate to even hazard a guess on what “menu importance” means.
But if we take the information at face value, what can we learn? On the whole, it seems as though the high school students have a preference for sugary and starchy things, and the college-aged kids have a preference for savory and proteiny things. We’d be inclined to call more of the items in the former group “junk food” and more of the items in the latter group “real food;” a healthier diet, if not necessarily healthier food. It is sort of scary to see salty snacks and candy so highly ranked on the high school side…but we’re not devastated about fruit’s position between bagels and bacon on the college side. We certainly know why eggs and bacon are beloved by college students (and anyone who doesn’t should just stop reading this blog right now), but why are they nonexistent on the high school side?
Our guess is not because of changing tastes, but simply because decent savory breakfast takes too long to eat in high school. So much more time pressure than in college! Maybe the pair are hiding in the breakfast sandwiches, those paeans to efficiency. They’re ranked much lower for lazy college students, and probably mostly eaten at night, anyway. So we have sympathy for the high schoolers, and we’re gratified by the college students’ better choices. Overall, a decent outcome.
[Photo: Top foods for morning meals at school, NRN]