City Council votes for breakfast in classrooms but mayor, chancellor won't let it happen
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 8/30/2012, 4:38 p.m.
With one of the lowest school breakfast participation rates in the country, the New York City Council addressed the issue last week when it approved resolutions that would allow breakfast to be served in the classrooms of public schools instead of the cafeteria. With fewer than 40 percent of low-income students using school breakfasts, the council felt this would help students get the balanced meals they need to be productive during the school day.
Before the vote took place, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a news conference, "Children who eat breakfast pay more attention in the classroom and are more engaged in their work and-- we know, factually--perform better academically." Breakfast in public schools usually includes cereal, low-fat milk, juices, yogurt and fruits.
According to Quinn, despite the fact that all students are eligible for free lunch, she feels that many kids skip the meal because they arrive late to school and don't want to miss out on visiting with friends. She also said they didn't want to deal with the stigma that comes with eating lunch in the cafeteria, where classmates might know they're getting free meals because of their families' income status.
Regardless, the City Council realizes that the move is only symbolic because the mayor, having control of the schools, has the final say in anything education-related.
The plan's advocates state that children will benefit from having a nutritious meal, and the plan makes sure that they will eat. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott have publicly vowed to fight back.
While the AmNews wasn't able to contact Walcott, he did tell local news station NY1, "We are not going to mandate this. It's something that our principals have the ability to opt into and so we want them to opt into it if that's what they want to do. Our goal is to increase the breakfast served, whether it's in the classroom or people walking in."
Through a spokesperson, Bloomberg said that the administration wants to make sure that no child goes hungry and that each one has a healthy breakfast, but he remained concerned about calorie intake and weight issues. Bloomberg, a crusader against childhood obesity, claims that 40 percent of public school children in the city are overweight or obese. A recent study by the Health Department said that students were "double-dipping," that is, they eat breakfast at home and then again in school.
Quinn said the study is flawed, stating that a kid can have a "glass of juice" at home and a yogurt at school and that would be counted as two meals.