Class time is breakfast time in LA

Government Assistance Programs Aid Underprivileged Communities In New York State

John Moore/Getty Images

For the first 15 or 20 minutes of the school day, Los Angeles Unified students eat a free breakfast in their classrooms. Los Angeles Unified is expanding the program to schools where few kids are eligible for a free meal, reports KPCC. Parents say the food is loaded with sugar. Teachers resent the mess and the loss of teaching time.

For the first day of breakfast in the classroom for all students at Castle Heights Elementary Thursday, the menu included whole wheat pancakes, syrup, wildberry juice and milk.

. . . Castle Heights is in the affluent Cheviot Hills neighborhood in West Los Angeles and only 30 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, way below the district average of 85 percent.

The school used to serve breakfast before school in the multi-purpose room to students who qualified for free or reduced-price meals. But expanding the program to every child — unless parents opt out — raises revenues because the meals are federally subsidized.

David Binkle, director of L.A. Unified’s food service division, said kids won’t lose out on instruction because teachers are required to teach while the students are eating.

“The bottom line is it’s good for children, and you can’t argue with good,” he said. The program is set to roll out to all schools in the district by the end of the 2014-2015 year.

Moving breakfast — and enrolling more students — has saved cafeteria workers’ jobs, Binkle said. The district now serves 300,000 breakfasts in classrooms every school day.

“But with cuts to janitorial services, teachers have complained the food is attracting pests – and they say setup and clean up time is cutting into teaching time,” reports KPCC.

“Parents are now told not to feed children at home,” reports Take Part.

While 51 percent of teachers don’t like the program, it’s bringing in federal dollars. Less than 30 percent of students showed up early for breakfast when it was served in the cafeteria, reports Take Part. Serving a free breakfast to every student will bring in “$20 million a year once the program is expanded through all grade levels.”

About Joanne


  1. dangermom says:

    “The bottom line is it’s good for children, and you can’t argue with good,” he said.

    Well, there are lots of good things in the world. So many that we can’t cram them all in. The question is not, “is this good?” but more like “is this the best use of everyone’s time and money and resources? Is this the best thing we can do for these particular kids? Is this justified by the kids’ needs?”

    I can quite see where teachers would be annoyed by the time loss and distraction (even if teachers read aloud excellent literature during the time, there’s still a lot of moving around and arranging and so on). Usually schools try to keep food *out* of classrooms, and eating in classrooms will lead to spillage, crumbs, and pests.

    With my own kid’s food allergies, not to mention all parents’ concerns about nutrition, I’d be very wary.

  2. Miller Smith says:

    Parents are told to not feed their children at home?!?!?! This is to get more money and save jobs. Wow. The employees are the prostitutes and the children are the Johns…and the parents are some people the children stay with at night and weekends.
    ‘Murca, gotta love it!

  3. I sometimes taught my science lessons in K-2 classrooms in Maryland that had breakfast while I was setting up. A majority of the food and milk ended up in the trash. Even the kids with who qualified barely ate any of it. This is not about the kids.

    • Jerry Doctor says:

      Hmmm… science lessons. Brings up an interesting thought. In my state there are rules prohibiting food in science laboratories. Now I realize this is talking about elementary schools, but does anyone not believe that when these kids move up there won’t be people asking that the free breakfast in the classroom program be added to jr. and sr. high schools where kids do have class in science laboratories?

      Even for elementary schools it might be fun to spread the word that the kids are eating in rooms where they work with CHEMICALS. I’d love to see how the OMG-It’s-a-chemical-it’s-going-to-kill-you crowd reacts.

  4. I teach middle school in LAUSD and most of us hate it. Besides the horrible mess and loss of instruction time, the food is processed crap. It’s usually all carbs and loaded with calories. They would serve a fruit sometimes but many times it is sugar filled juice. Also many students won’t eat the food because of the taste. Yesterday only one student in my class took the food (a processed bar) only because he was starving.

    • Mike in Texas says:

      You’re right on that the food is processed crap. Here in Texas a private company provides the breakfasts, with a nice little kickback to the school district per meal. Of course, the taxpayers are the ones paying the kickback.

  5. My oldest child briefly went to a preschool that served breakfast. The problem was that she woke early and couldn’t wait until school to eat so she ended up eating two breakfasts every day. We tracked her height/weight at the time and looking at the weight chart you can clearly see the months that she attended that preschool.

    This is a very bad idea.

    • I know a family where the kids get breakfast (most likely free) at the kids’ elementary school. The mom was telling me how she was annoyed that her husband was letting the kids sleep in mornings instead of waking them up at 6 am so they could have a snack before they got to school (where they just ate again). It’s normal to eat upon rising; I’m not surprised that kids often end up eating two breakfasts when fed at school. I like lulu’s idea below: easily eaten snacks for those who need them. That targets the problem–truly hungry kids–without increasing the amount of dessert, I mean, American breakfast food, being fed to kids.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        “It’s normal to eat upon rising.”

        For some people (like me and my daughter), it is. For some people (like my wife and my son), it isn’t. For a while, when he was younger, we tried to force him to eat. Finally, we said, “people are different; children are different.” That made it easier for everyone 🙂

  6. SC Math Teacher says:

    When my wife and I had our kids, I’m pretty sure we signed on to that whole feeding our own kids thing. It’s one thing to help the destitute (and using tax dollars for hat is certainly up for debate). It’s another thing entirely to expand it to every student irrespective of circumstance.

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      In Prince George’s County Maryland, a number of schools just started in April to serve all children a “breakfast.”
      This is part of a state program aimed at the majority FARMs school. However, schools in Bowie, where a majority of kids are not FARMs are serving the breakfast.

  7. “. . . It will bring in $20 million a year. . .”

    That says it all right there.

  8. So:
    (1) It reduces teaching time
    (2) it brings in pests
    (3) it makes a mess for the cleaning staff (or, the teachers)
    (4) it’s unnecessary
    (5) it’s unhealthy

    But, it triggers more federal dollars to be sent to the schools.

    Hey, peeps! Federal money isn’t FREE – it comes from the taxpayers. The Feds have to borrow the money that they “give” to you. That money – plus interest – has to be paid back.

    You sure that the “free” breakfast is still worth it?

  9. I know that this would defeat the ‘purpose’ of the program, which seems to be employing cafeteria workers and providing federal $/kickbacks, depending on the area, but based on the small number of kids actually eating and the fact that it’s already processed food, it seems like this could be done much more easily/cheaply. Grocery-selling places will often donate close-to-expiration food, and churches are usually happy to have collection drives for specific items (granola bars, single-serving cereal, squeezable applesauce etc). If the school has a PTA, they could buy some in bulk. These could be available to students who want to eat them, either because they have no food or because they were too rushed for breakfast. A few kids eating would create a lot less mess than food for a bunch, and most teachers could manage having a box of granola bars near their desks (or at the school entrance) and letting students get one to eat in the first few minutes of class. And, it would be free/cheap for the school district. Hungry kids are a real problem at some schools, but what LAUSD is doing sounds like a crazy way to deal with it.

  10. Ann in L.A. says:

    Why do all these programs require foods to be *hot*! Why not just hand out some fruit, granola bars, pb&j’s, some diced ham and cheese, bread and jam, hard boiled eggs, etc. With the schools feeding everybody, they have to take into account kosher/halal restrictions, diabetics, vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diets, food allergies, etc. In affluent neighborhoods that’s crazy–a waste of money and time.

    We live in the Hancock Park district, though our kids go elsewhere; this is a complete waste of money and time.

    We have friends in a nearby school, with a less-affluent student body. Teachers hate it. The cafeteria puts everything into insulated bags which the teachers have to come pick up and then bring back. It is terribly disruptive and very messy. It’s supposed to be okay and not taking up class time because the class can proceed while the kids are eating?! In what universe is this guy living in!

    The key to all of this is the line early on: it began as a way to save cafeteria jobs. LAUSD exists to protect and employ adults, not educate children.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Ah, parenthood without parenting.