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Breakfast is served in L.A. classrooms thanks to donation

March 29, 2012 |  2:08 pm

More than 200,000 Los Angeles students will start their day with a healthy breakfast in their classrooms over the next year under a major new program announced Thursday.

The “Food for Thought” program, which will bring food into the classroom rather than just the cafeteria, aims to boost school breakfast consumption in the Los Angeles Unified School District from 29% to 70%, according to David Binkle, the district’s food services deputy director. Research has linked breakfast to higher academic performance, fewer discipline problems, less obesity and reduced visits to school nurses for headaches and other ailments.
“Our mothers were right: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the kick-off event at Figueroa Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles.

As dozens of cameras clicked, two dozen third-graders dug into fresh strawberries, yogurt, a blueberry muffin, fruit juice and milk at their desks, while flanked by actress Sophia Vergara, L.A. Unified School Board President Monica Garcia and Supt. John Deasy. At one desk, Amayrany Reyes gobbled up her strawberries but ignored the yogurt and picked around the blueberries in the muffin. But the girl, sporting a pink ribbon in her long braid, said she generally enjoyed the meal.

“Everything is good,” she said. “I feel more ready for school and I have more energy.”

The school is one of several in L.A. Unified to launch pilot classroom breakfast programs. Since rolling out the program in January, absences, tardies and visits to the school nurse have noticeably declined, according to Principal Tanya Stokes-Mack. The district hopes to expand the program to 267 more schools in the next academic year and 676 campuses in three years, district officials said. 

Expanding school breakfast consumption is hoped to bring in $5.8 million annually in federal school meal reimbursements, which can be reinvested in food services equipment and other services, Binkle said.

The program marks the first initiative by the L.A. Fund for Public Education, a new foundation launched by Deasy and Hollywood philanthropist Megan Chernin aimed at raising $200 million over five years for local public schools. The foundation is providing about $200,000 to the breakfast program to help develop nutrition education, train teachers on ways to provide it during the 10-to-15-minute breakfast period and work with food vendors to improve food quality.

“It’s healthy, it’s good and it gives kids the boost they need in the morning,” Chernin said of the breakfast program. 

--Teresa Watanabe