Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hungry for Better Results

A healthy breakfast is not only nutritionally crucial but also is an important element of successful school performance. However, according to a study by Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), New York City is virtually last among all major urban cities in providing low income children despite that fact that one in five New York City children live in homes that cannot afford a sufficient supply of food. Amazingly, though 80% are eligible, only 29% of NYC's school children that receive free lunches also receive breakfast. For context, consider that in Portland 98% and in Newark 96% of such students are served their morning meal.

This absolute failure of the Administration will be underscored today at 10:00 a.m. on the steps of city hall as Representative Anthony Weiner, State Senator Carl Kruger, Councilmen Gioia, Monseratte, and Weprin and the New York City Coalition Against Hunger rally to pressure the Department of Education to reverse their shameful performance when it comes to providing breakfast for the city's low-income youth.

In particular the speakers will emphasize that the most successful way to improve the participation rate in NYC's free school breakfast initiative is to move the program from the cafeteria to the classroom. As has been seen in Newark, where the program is very successful, kids are much more likely to opt for breakfast if the meals are distributed to all their peers in a such a way that eliminates stigma and the temptation to eat less nutritious foods.

This innovative approach needs to piloted in the city otherwise New York will continue to remain in an embarrassing and dangerous last when it comes to feeding its neediest students; and this dismal showing has educational, health and fiscal implications. With school performance still much in need of improvement, and with the city being challenged by an obesity epidemic, we need to insure that school kids eat a healthy breakfast-not to mention the tens of millions of dollars that New York City is leaving on the table because of its low school breakfast participation rate.