Monday, November 17, 2008

Full and Ready to Learn

It’s the most important meal of the day, and at public schools across the city, it’s finally available to everyone. Following years of advocacy from NYCCAH and other anti-hunger groups, the City is expanding a pilot program that will make breakfast available in the classroom for students at 299 schools over the next two years. Before the expansion, in-classroom breakfasts were available in only 50 schools.

Since 2003, the City has offered free breakfast to all public school students regardless of income, but participation rates have remained low. By bringing breakfast into the classroom, the city hopes to lessen the stigma associated with receiving free breakfasts and to cut down on tardiness among students who would otherwise be forced to eat breakfast before their first period class.

“Any program that feeds hungry children, improves education, reduces tardiness and absenteeism is clearly an overwhelming public good,” said NYCCAH Executive Director Joel Berg. Berg and other anti-hunger advocates will call for Congressional funding to make in-classroom breakfasts available nationwide.

For educators, in-classroom breakfasts act as vital aid in the teaching process: one that works better and costs no more than serving the meal in the cafeteria. “We think it’s a terrific — terrific — way to ensure that our children are getting proper nutrition in the morning,” said Kathleen Grimm, New York City deputy chancellor for finance and administration.

The message is clear to City students, whose satisfaction is the best arbiter of the program’s success. As members of a third-grade class in Queens finished their in-classroom breakfast, 8-year-old Carol Ossieli observed: “It makes me full and happy. I’m ready to study and learn.”

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