School lunch gets the brunt of the attention when dealing with feeding kids during the day. But there are the breakfast programs as well as snack and sometimes dinner programs (as I learned recently).
Fewer kids usually qualify for breakfast than for lunch, and so the seating issues are often not as significant. But the Chicago Public Schools want to institute breakfast for all children, and the idea is running into a few problems.
The basic premise: make sure kids get a good breakfast. Everyone agrees on that. And the CPS will actually make money — $18.7 million annually on feeding all the kids, and in times where schools come up short on funding, this seems like a win-win.
There are two looming issues that has parents up in arms, and they are objecting to the new policy.
- One is allergens, an issue if the food is in the cafeteria, but cafeterias/gyms are cleaned after the lunch period, reducing the risks. Having potential allergens in the classroom all day is going to be a problem.
- Parents are also concerned that meal time is cutting into school learning. CPS has one of the shortest school days in the country.
The second problem is easy to solve: lengthen the school day, though that may not be as easy to do as it is easy to suggest.
The first problem is more extensive, especially given the limited options for breakfast food that wouldn't cause allergies.
There are certainly other issues, ranging from some kids getting a second breakfast to even more potential for wasted food.
The trivial answer would be to teach the kids a life lesson and have them eat at their desk during class, like their parents do at work. And that could solve the issues of several lunch periods by having kids eat lunch at their desks, too.
Okay, so that isn't serious, even if the solution is tempting.
The status quo is that kids go the cafeteria and eat their breakfast, if they qualify, before school and away from the classroom.
The parents who are complaining have good points, though the time issue should be an easy solution. But the idea of compulsory breakfast reduces the stigma of identifying breakfast kids as "poor."
Ideally, you wouldn't worry about the kids standing around in the cafeteria eating breakfast, regardless of whether they would qualify. But CPS would make less money if every kid doesn't take a breakfast.
The important thing is for kids to be nourished in the morning, at fullest capacity, to learn as much as you can. Whatever compromise is necessary — let's get it down.