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Charter schools' choices: Good food, free food, no food

January 1, 2011 |  7:44 pm
Para Los Niños, a charter elementary and middle school in downtown Los Angeles provides free breakfasts, lunches and snacks, largely thanks to federal government funding.  On the menu one recent day: 1% milk, chicken salad, corn and beans, a banana and a whole-wheat roll.

Cafeteria food at traditional public schools has long had a bad reputation, but at least children from needy families can count on a meal that's free.

Mealtime is more complicated at the more than 900 publicly financed charter schools in California. Unlike traditional campuses that must follow state nutrition regulations for schools, charters can make independent decisions about what's for lunch.

Some charter school officials decide not to serve it at all, even if that might mean that the nutritional  needs of some of the state's poorest children are not met.

"Charter schools are about family choice," said Phyllis Bramson-Paul, director of nutrition services for the state Department of Education. "On the other hand, there is a lot of hunger in California, and we know children who are hungry don't learn as well."

Read the full story here.

-- Mary MacVean and Alexandra Zavis

Photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times