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LA teachers: School breakfast program conditions flawed

April 30, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Controversy over a Los Angeles schools breakfast program that feeds tens of thousands of kids: Many parents support it, but many teachers say there are problems, and they want it run more efficiently or cut altogether.

Parents gathered outside school Tuesday morning to rally to keep the Los Angeles Unified School District school breakfast program. Those gathered asked parents and community members to sign a petition to keep the program in place.

The program went into effect two years ago and feeds nearly 200,000 children.

The federally funded student breakfast meals are served away from the cafeteria and in the classrooms, but the program has come under sharp criticism from teachers.

United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher says teachers have major concerns about cleanliness in the classroom. Fletcher released photographs to show what UTLA says are sanitation problems.

"Here in LAUSD, custodial positions have been cut, and cut, and cut, over the last five or six years, and so in every classroom, prior to the breakfast in the classroom program, we had major problems with cleanliness and sanitation," said Fletcher. "Now that the district has started actually serving cafeteria food in classrooms, it's created major sanitation problems and major pest-infestation problems."

Fletcher says the program also cuts into instructional time since it begins at the start of the school day.

Technically it is scheduled to be 10 minutes long, but Fletcher says it can sometimes take up to 45 minutes.

But service employees union leaders are also making their voices heard, saying 900 school cafeteria workers would lose their jobs if the program is discontinued.

"There are a half-million children that come here every single day that may or may not have the tools that they need to learn, and we believe that a hungry child cannot learn," said Courtni Pugh, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 99.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy also stands behind the program. He released a statement saying, in part:

"Due to conditions of poverty and other factors, many of these same students had in the past started their school day without having eaten breakfast. The evidence is clear that students who eat healthy food perform better in the classroom. It is my belief children have a fundamental right to a healthy meal prior to beginning their instructional day."

The LAUSD school board will vote whether to continue the program on May 14.


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