Vot­ers back class­room school break­fast pro­gram

Most say serv­ing stu­dents dur­ing class hours would im­prove per­for­mance.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Teresa Watan­abe teresa.watan­abe @la­times.com

Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers strongly sup­port serv­ing break­fast to stu­dents dur­ing the school day, with most link­ing a nu­tri­tious morn­ing meal to im­proved aca­demic achieve­ment, ac­cord­ing to a new statewide poll.

Two-thirds of Cal­i­for­nia reg­is­tered vot­ers sur­veyed in the Field Poll sup­ported a pro­posal to re­quire cam­puses to serve break­fast dur­ing class hours rather than be­fore, as most schools do. Three-fourths said break­fast would im­prove aca­demic per­for­mance and fa­vored us­ing ex­ist­ing fed­eral funds to pay for the meals.

Sup­port was strong across age, gen­der, eth­nic­ity and geog­ra­phy in the tele­phone poll of 1,251 reg­is­tered vot­ers.

“Cal­i­for­ni­ans see break­fast as es­sen­tial to a child’s abil­ity to learn in school,” Mark DiCamillo, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of the Field Re­search Corp., said in a state­ment. “What’s strik­ing in this poll is the mag­ni­tude of voter sup­port for schools to proac­tively of­fer all kids an op­por­tu­nity to eat break­fast, and this in­cludes a break­fast-af­ter-the-bell re­quire­ment.”

Los An­ge­les Uni­fied launched a “break­fast in the class­room” pro­gram in 2011 and now serves 340,000 stu­dents daily at 614 el­e­men­tary, mid­dle and high schools.

The ini­tial roll­out prompted hun­dreds of com­plaints from teach­ers about an in­crease in ver­min, spills, wasted class time and stu­dent re­jec­tion of the food. In a 2013 United Teach­ers Los An­ge­les sur­vey, 88% of 729 ed­u­ca­tors said they wanted to shift the pro­gram from class­rooms to the cafe­te­ria.

Those con­cerns have not been en­tirely ad­dressed, ac­cord­ing to union spokes­woman Suzanne Spur­geon.

But at Stan­ley Mosk El­e­men­tary in the north­west San Fer­nando Val­ley, the pro­gram has been a huge suc­cess, said Prin­ci­pal Bar­bara Friedrich. She said up to 90% of the school’s 562 stu­dents eat the class­room break­fast ev­ery day, com­pared with far lower par­tic­i­pa­tion when the meal was served be­fore school or dur­ing the first re­cess. She cred­ited the pro­gram with in­creas­ing stu­dent fo­cus and re­duc­ing com­plaints of headaches and stom­achaches from as many as 20 a day to nearly none to­day.

Friedrich said that it takes only about 15 min­utes to get through break­fast and that teach­ers di­rect stu­dents to use the time pro­duc­tively by watch­ing ed­u­ca­tional videos, writ­ing in jour­nals or work­ing on other as­sign­ments while eat­ing. Food not con­sumed is shared at the school’s par­ent cen­ter, re­duc­ing waste, and ver­min has not been a prob­lem be­cause trash-filled bags are re­moved and re­placed daily, she said.

Even the menu has im­proved over the last year, she said. Re­spond­ing to par­ent and stu­dent re­quests, the dis­trict has added more egg, yo­gurt and other pro­tein of­fer­ings and cut back on muffins and other items heavy on car­bo­hy­drates and sugar, ac­cord­ing to Laura Be­navidez, the dis­trict’s deputy direc­tor of food ser­vices. (Still, Friedrich said the dis­trict’s fa­mous cof­fee cake is still served weekly and is by far the most popular item.)

“At Stan­ley Mosk, the pro­gram works,” Friedrich said. “It’s been won­der­ful.”

Two state leg­is­la­tors have in­tro­duced a bill that would re­quire lower-in­come schools to serve break­fast. Cam­puses with at least 60% of stu­dents el­i­gi­ble for fed­er­ally sub­si­dized meals would be re­quired to of­fer break­fast af­ter the school day be­gins un­der AB 1240 by As­sem­bly­man Rob Bonta (DOak­land) and Tony Thur­mond (D-Rich­mond).

The bill is spon­sored by the Cal­i­for­nia Food Pol­icy Ad­vo­cates, an Oak­land­based non­profit that also spon­sored the four Field Poll ques­tions on break­fast.

Bob Chamberlin Los An­ge­les Times

MAYERLY TE­JANO , right, chats with friends as they de­liver break­fast at Figueroa Street El­e­men­tary.

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