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From left bottom corner (clockwise): Crispix cereal, “Danimals” pink yogurt, milk, fruit cup, jelly
A year ago many schools started rolling out “universal breakfast” programs in Chicago Public Schools. I blogged about it then (See 2011’s: The Breakfast Series). Many of the benefits of the program continue:
1) Hungry students get something to eat before they start their academic work in the morning. Many kids were hungry because they didn’t eat breakfast and now they aren’t. Of course this was the main reason that Breakfast in the Classroom was started: to help hungry kids focus by putting food in their bellies.
2) Eating in the classroom promotes camaraderie and increased socialization. Who you sit with at lunch can be different than who sits next to you in class. I really like that kids get a chance to chat with deskmates over a meal.
3) Parents highly motivated to get kids to school for breakfast. When I see parents in the hallways before school, I often see them watching carefully as their children take a brown bag off of large carts. And if a student comes late, they often ask if their child can still get a breakfast. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I can’t be sure, but I really don’t see very many late children these days.
However, disadvantages still remain:
1) Kids eat only the sugary components of the meal and toss the rest. I’ve heard this complaint from teachers about the students. In my opinion, I think teachers need to educate the kids about a balanced breakfast and what parts of the lunch are protein, carbohydrates, and sugar. Kids need to eat a protein in the morning to feel full longer throughout the day. I really wish I had known this earlier in life. I remember eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast for years and then wondering why I got hungry around 9:30 am every morning. Not having a substantial protein in the morning is a mistake.
2) Food waste and increased trash. The garbage created by the breakfast astonishes me. Every classroom generates a massive black garbage bag. The janitorial stuff works hard to clean everything up because no one wants old food hanging around the classroom (not to mention bugs or rodents).
3) Increased work for lunch staff. The lunch staff has to move several hundred meals to the several different doors of the school so that kids can easily grab a bag on their way to their classrooms. I don’t think their wages were increased in proportion to their workload. Hats off to their dedication to the children!
My support of the Breakfast in the Classroom remains strong. Kids need to eat something before they begin their studies. Do I wish there was less sugar, flavorings, and preservatives? Of course. We’re going to get there without a doubt.