Advocates Urge NYC Schools to Serve Breakfast in Class

NEW YORK – Serving school breakfast in the cafeteria may not be good enough to help impoverished students, according to advocates who urged the city’s Department of Education to offer meals in classrooms instead.

Only 29 percent of New York City students who are eligible for school breakfasts actually receive them, according to a study released by the Food Research and Action Center on Aug. 7. New York had one of the lowest figures of the 23 big city districts in the study, second only to Chicago. Meanwhile the numbers rose to 94 percent in Newark and 98 percent in Portland, Ore., where students can eat breakfast in their classrooms.

Executive Director Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger cited these grim statistics at a news conference outside City Hall on Aug. 7. The Department of Education said it would consider his proposal to offer breakfast in class instead. It has already begun a “grab and go” pilot program in a few high schools where students can pick up prepackaged meals and eat them where they choose.

The study speculated that eating breakfast in the cafeteria might carry a social stigma for children who do not wish to appear poor. Some students also may not arrive early enough to eat breakfast before class.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced free breakfast in public schools in 2003. Since then, total student participation has risen from 14 percent to 20.3 percent in the 2006-2007 school year.

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