Coming to school and sitting in class with an empty stomach makes learning difficult. Many school districts around the country serve breakfast, and often it is free or at a reduced price for students who already receive free or reduced lunch. So why are many students not partaking of this offer and still going hungry in class? Notoriously bad cafeteria food may have something to do with it, but some recent reports and this recent NY Times article may also shed some light on the issue. Today’s post looks at some of the reasons this may be happening and also introduces the beginnings of a plan to correct the problem.
Every student in New York City public schools is provided with free breakfast under a plan that Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Mayor Mike) introduced back in 2003. For that, he receives a gold star. While participation in school breakfasts has increased since that time, it appears that many students who qualify are still not eating. It’s not because they got a full breakfast of pancakes and a side of bacon at home, but for other reasons entirely:
- Students who qualify for free breakfast programs, and actually need it, come from impoverished homes. These students are also the most likely to be bused to school over long distances and arrive at school late – missing the appointed meal time (breakfast programs are normally before school).
- There is a stigma attached to having to go to the cafeteria to receive breakfast and we all know how kids (and adults) can be very self-conscious of needing to accept such handouts and the knowledge that they will be ridiculed because of it.
- Breakfast must often be eaten in the cafeteria where it is served and not taken back to the classroom. Unfortunately this means the child must be away from the room, sometimes missing academic instruction – even if it is not in the official school time, many teachers use those 15 minutes or so before the official day begins to do some drill work for state exams, let kids catch up on homework, or just to socialize – students eating breakfast will have to miss this.
Well, these problems can be addressed all with one simple solution – serve breakfast in the classrooms. It is hard for anyone to concentrate and do good work without being properly nourished. TeacherJay could not be who he is without his morning bagel with cream cheese and cup of tea.
As TeacherJay’s prior experience is mainly in elementary schools, the following plan is related to that level of education:
- At a specific time in the morning a 10-15 minute break could be taken for the class to eat breakfast, or a mid-morning snack.
- It would be provided free for all students, so there would be no stigma attached to it, and students would not need to miss classroom time.
- Food would be healthy and pre-packaged and students welcome to bring their own food from home.
- This would not be “wasted” time, but rather could be used for silent reading or another individual activity.
More and more it seems that schools are taking on responsibilities that have traditionally belonged to parents. There are many different viewpoints on whether or not this is good or bad for society and what is causing it and those are great things to discuss in other posts. For now we can just say that if it is going to happen that schools need to be feeding students, shouldn’t it be done well, and comprehensively?