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Pushing Breakfast in the Classroom Turns Some Parents' Stomachs

The Short of It

An initiative to serve breakfast in the classroom instead of the cafeteria is turning some parents' stomachs. They say although serving free or reduced-price food in the cafeteria before class may single out low-income kids, a classroom meal takes away from instructional time.

The Lowdown

Sadly, 51 percent of American children are considered low income. In cities like Los Angeles and Detroit, 80 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast, which is aimed at keeping kids focused in school instead of being hungry.

But evidence exists that even kids who need it are skipping their free breakfast to avoid being singled out. In response, some schools, in Los Angeles for example, have shifted the meal from the cafeteria to the classroom to provide food for all students, not just the ones who qualify.

Expanding the breakfast program provides financial incentives for participating schools in the form of government reimbursement, which likely explains its growth. As many as 2.3 billion breakfasts are now served annually.

Still, many parents—of all incomes—and teachers are concerned that time spent on serving what is for many kids an unnecessary meal takes away from learning. Some parents are organizing to opt out of the breakfast in the classroom program. They say food belongs in the cafeteria.

The Upshot

Another concern that needs to be addressed as the program evolves is how to ensure kids aren't eating at home and at school. According to the CDC, the childhood obesity rate has doubled in the past 30 years.

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