New flexibility for LA Unified’s breakfast in the classroom
Yana Gracile | June 12, 2014
A successful program aimed at providing free classroom breakfast to low-income students in Los Angeles Unified has quietly made a change: it will now allow schools with more affluent populations to use alternative approaches to feeding kids in the morning.
Part of a national school breakfast program, LAUSD’s “Breakfast in the Classroom” (BIC) is funded with millions of dollars in Federal money that had been left on the table by the district. In less than three years, it has rolled out in 550 LA Unified schools, reaching 360,000 students from low-income families.
“The evidence is clear that students who eat healthy food perform better in the classroom,” says Laura Benavidez, Deputy Director of Food Services at LAUSD told LA School Report. “It is our belief that children have a fundamental right to a healthy meal to prepare for their instructional day.”
But this year, in its final rollout phase the program hit a snag, encountering resistance from schools with fewer students in need. Parents complained that BIC wasted instructional time while causing a mess in the classroom.
According to Jean Brown of the LA Fund for Public Education, a leading non-profit that helps support the program, parents “suggested alternative programs that take the model and address the unique needs of each school.”
After LA Unified and the Fund visited 30 elementary schools that resisted BIC, they developed an option for elementary schools that allows students to eat breakfast during a morning break. The district quietly adopted it this spring, and it will be implemented in the next academic year.
Paige Schechtman, a parent at Hancock Elementary, a school on Fairfax that she says has fewer than 30 students among 825 who are eligible for free or reduced meals, opposed mandatory implementation and now welcomes the new flexibility.
“I’m really happy,” she said. “I always want what’s good for all kids, not just mine.”
Benavidez said that for the high-needs schools, breakfast in the classroom should take a total of 15 minutes and if instructors feel it takes longer, district officials will come out to the school site and determine what is causing the delay. They will then reassess the process and offer solutions such as additional training or helping address implementation.
She says within a school that is providing breakfast in the classroom, any child can opt out from eating. The district’s intent, she said, is to provide all students who are hungry access to breakfast.