Friday, September 14, 2007

Let's Eat!

In yesterday's NY Daily News, the paper's Errol Louis strongly urged Chancellor Klein to make sure that the city's school kids eat their free breakfast. This declaration comes on the heels of the FRAC report that found that NY schools came in second to last among all of the country's major cities. Louis also acknowledged the advocacy role of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, the group that called attention to the report last month.

As we have also pointed out, the fact that city kids are not availing themselves of the free breakfast has health, educational and fiscal implications. As the Nutrition Consortium of New York State has pointed out, in commenting on its pilot breakfast programs in 20 upstate school districts, eating a good school breakfast has profound educational benefits. In addition, eating the right nutritionally sound breakfast can also have a significant effect on the city's growing obesity epidemic.

Which is why the Health Corps has teamed up with the Got Breakfast Foundation and is pushing, along with the hunger coalition, to get the schools to institute a pilot breakfast in the classroom program. At this writing it appears that the UFT will also be supportive of the effort, and meetings are scheduled with key school food personnel to discuss the potential of a pilot program.

The obesity epidemic must be challenged at all levels of public policy. As HC founder Dr. Mehmet Oz wrote in the Daily News last month: "Our country is facing an unprecedented health crisis, with obesity rates reaching epidemic proportions. This crisis is even worse in New York City, where, for example, the Bronx leads other boroughs in the prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and strokes - symptoms that can all be traced back to the growing legion of overweight New Yorkers."

So kudos to Errol Louis for recognizing this, and for also pointing out the city is losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars in the process: "Not only is this wasteful - the city is passing up an estimated $49 million a year in federal funds by not getting these eligible kids signed up - but it's educationally unsound. A hungry kid - or, worse, a kid eating candy or junk food for breakfast - can't sit and focus on learning." Let's hope this can all be changed for the better.