As we stood in line, waiting to enter the classroom, my mind was reeling. I kept thinking of words like waste, obesity, complacency, responsibility, etc. How could this essentially ideal food program sort of defeat the educational purpose?
The actual concept of the free breakfast is good, by nature. Our school receives the program based on its population of students from low-income families. It is intended to feed those who might not receive enough nourishment at home. Therefore, it also touches on social justice, in the sense that it “serves” equality by making sure that all students start the day from a similar baseline: full bellies — which increases attention, focus and energy.
That being said, I do believe the intended goal is justifiable. However, do we really want to teach our children to fill up their plates, even if they do not want all of the items? That means that the child will do one of two things: One, potentially throw away three out of four items or, Two, eat some of the items, even if they do not truly need the additional calories.
So, we’re looking at two serious issues: increasing waste and impacting childhood obesity. This type of behavior leads children to irresponsible food choices.
Again, the program is optional. Therefore, one could argue it will not impact each child. However, if you look at learning patterns, environmental impact is regarded as a key factor in one’s education. So, if your child is around other kids who are eating the free food, chances are they might be swayed into “wanting” some for themselves. Not to mention, the free breakfast program takes place in the classroom.
This is another downside to the program. The classroom now becomes the cafeteria, and the teacher is not teaching, but rather making sure the classroom does not become a chaotic mess. This process, especially in the lower grades, could potentially take 30 minutes out of their productive learning time.
As I stated above, I applaud the school district and the state for working at decreasing childhood hunger in California. However, it seems that there are a few kinks in the program. Why not allow families to sign up for the free breakfast, based on their desire or need?
To further increase efficiency, why not have the breakfast program in the cafeteria, before school begins? Even 20 to 30 minutes prior to the first bell could provide enough time for students to eat and then get to class.
Once the program successfully transitioned, the cost savings could potentially pay for additional staff in the cafeteria during free breakfast time. There is most likely red tape, or some kind of subsidy toward the program that does not include staff pay. However, it would behoove the district and state to think about the overall consequences of how this program is currently structured.
From the student, teacher and taxpayer perspective, is this program filling a need, or creating more waste?
• Ffjorren Zolfaghar is the editor and content director for HB Magazine, a freelance writer and a mother of four.