The battle against childhood obesity continues, with...breakfast? A number of the city's public schools have joined cities like Los Angeles and Chicago by serving breakfast in the classroom, providing children from low-income families with a meal they might not have at home. Breakfast has been offered in all public school cafeterias for a while, but in-classroom meals served to all students is seen as a way to make all kids get the most important meal of the day.
But while some gratis bagels and orange juice make it more likely that hungry children will be fed, the city's Breakfast in the Classroom program, which is currently used in 381 of 1,750 public schools, has raised some alarm. The Times reports that a recent Health Department study showed that for students who do eat breakfast at home, the in-classroom morning meal—which, in at least one classroom consists of things like muffins, cheese sticks and juice (hmm—this Health Department PDF says real fruit is better than juice)— could pile on unnecessary calories and fat. Citing concerns about childhood obesity, the Health Department has put the program's expansion on hold.
Child and anti-hunger advocacy groups, with the support of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, have recently begun to speak out against stalling the breakfast program, claiming the DOH is putting low-income children at risk over a few extra calories.
"While the prevention of obesity and diet-related disease is extremely important, it cannot be achieved at the expense of hungry children," Speaker Quinn wrote in a letter to the city this week. She and groups like the New York City Coalition Against Hunger are currently pushing for more schools to adopt the program. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of elementary and middle school students in New York City are considered obese or overweight, and city schools are still slacking on their physical education programs.