Breakfast in the Classroom: Unhealthy, Inefficient … Let’s Find a Better Way

ALL THINGS EDUCATION - LAUSD will provide Breakfast In The Classroom (BIC) to every schoolchild district-wide next year. Because LAUSD has reduced the number of janitors in schools so drastically, it is hard to envision how the program can be implemented hygienically. 

For example, since 2005 the janitorial staff at one middle school diminished by 33% (14 staff with enrollment of 1940 down to 4 for 1700); this is presumably typical. In the absence of sufficient janitorial staff there will be no one left but the teacher (or parents) to clean up every classroom individually. How is this efficient, to push implementation of this program into a thousand iterations across every classroom? 

 

Why not utilize existing central food facilities? Why confound the problem of hunger with implementation of a solution that jeopardizes public health and diminishes time available in the classroom for its mission: teaching? 

An internal audit of this program’s pilot is hardly encouraging, an administrator’s insistence elsewhere of the program’s “smashing success” notwithstanding. 

Of particular interest are the audit’s appendices where nearly every metric of success surveyed is tepid at best. There is no specific data presented regarding substantive outcome measured as, for example, absenteeism or academic achievement, though such benefits are claimed generically. It is hard to interpret the practical experience of this pilot program as anything short of haphazard. Issues are highlighted of timeliness and an array of problems from unsafe food conditions to insufficient program oversight and administration. Beyond instigating “data driven decisions”, it is necessary that the data be interpreted correctly, too. 

Nevertheless it is important not to confuse an implementation problem with a theoretical one. There is little doubt that a child who is hungry is a child who will be unable to learn; poverty matters. Social circumstances do affect a child’s ability to learn in the classroom on a daily basis, just as these issues affect a student’s readiness to have been taught and a teacher’s capacity to have done so. 

Perhaps it will be possible to reconsider implementation in a way that does not impinge on instructional time, classroom hygiene and the goodwill of parent volunteers. The program audit and this factsheet about BIC both stress an untoward flow of revenue from supercharging the present breakfast program to reach all pupils. 

It is hard to dispel the impression that this monetary motivation underlies LAUSD’s implementation as strongly as any social or academic one. Mitigating the harmful effects of cleanliness, timeliness and lost instructional time are prerequisite to any educational program incorporating all the best interests of our children.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor.)

-cw     

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue  33

Pub: Apr 23, 2013