CPS to offer all students free breakfast

January 27, 2011 9:52:48 AM PST
Chicago's school board has adopted a program to offer free breakfast to all Chicago Public Schools students.

Some schools already offer the program, but now, more schools in Chicago will be able to get it. It is already offered in 199 district schools, but beginning next month, it will expand into an additional 299 elementary schools.

The new program will feed 410,000 children. Children will get a grab-and-go bag and be able to take it into the classroom.

Administrators at McAuliffe Elementary School on the West Side, where free breakfasts have been offered for three years, say it has done nothing but good things for their students.

Coolers full of food like cereal, low-fat milk and juice are dropped off outside their homeroom doors, then students can pick a few items to eat at their desks.

Educators at McAuliffe say they were the first in Chicago to participate in the federally funded Breakfast in the Classroom Program and say it's been a success.

"It makes for a better student to have food in their belly as they say. A child who has had breakfast studies learns better," said David Pino, McAuliffe Elementary principal.

McAuliffe teacher Lillian Arroyo says the breakfasts have never disrupted learning in her classroom. Arroyo says her students eat from 8:45-9 a.m. while she gets her lessons in order.

"During that time, what we usually do is we take attendance, and actually we try to get ready for the day while you have the kids eating in the classroom, because once they know their routine, they already know what to do every day," said Arroyo.

School board members believe this will have nutritional and psychological benefits for children.

The move isn't coming without critics. Some parents believe this will take 10 to 15 minutes out of the school day, adding up to 10 lost school days a year. They argue that it will disrupt learning, especially for kids who eat at home.

"It cuts into the instructional time of our teachers," said parent Sandra Hamilton. "We have an extremely short day, the shortest in the nation, in fact, in our CPS system. We feel it does not benefit our children."

Individual students will be able to opt out, but some parents wanted entire schools to be able to opt out of the program. School board members denied that request.