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Hormel Foods to study breakfast protein deficiency at Neveln

Neveln Elementary School will turn into a research experiment this fall.

Neveln first-graders will assist Hormel Foods Corp. researchers in figuring out whether U.S. students face a protein deficiency at breakfast. They’ll track what they had for breakfast each day and learn about nutrition among other activities, according to district and Hormel officials.

The research proposal comes on the heels of Project Spammy, a Hormel initiative designed to provide nutrition to needy children around the world. For example, the nutrition supplement called Spammy is sent to children in Guatemala since the country faces an epidemic of stunted growth, often caused by a lack of protein.

While Hormel researchers carry out Project Spammy, some officials couldn’t help but wonder what implications Spammy may have in the U.S.

“The same problem may exist in the States, but in a different context,” Dan Hernandez, Innovation Manager at Hormel told the board Monday.

That’s why researchers are looking into protein intake at Neveln. Scientists figure first-graders are still honest enough about what they eat that any data collected will be reliable, as opposed to older, possibly more food-conscious survey participants.

First-graders will mark what they have for breakfast every morning when they get to school, as well as learn about breakfast offerings at Neveln. The school currently offers breakfast options and a snack cart for students, but teachers elect to bring food in the classroom at different times of the day, according to Neveln Principal Dewey Schara.

“We’ve been looking at different ways we can ensure better nutrition for kids eating breakfast,” he said.

Hormel researchers will also examine what students leave on their trays after they are done eating to see whether students are getting enough protein in the morning.