New LAUSD program makes breakfast a priority

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

imageYou probably used to hear it from your parents all the time.

“It turns out our moms were right,” Mayor Villaraigosa said Thursday morning. “Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.”

It’s so important, that Villaraigosa has joined the Los Angeles Unified School District and community organization, InnerCity Struggle, to form “Food For Thought.”

The new program is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and looks to offer LAUSD students breakfast in the classroom.

“Food For Thought” will give students free breakfast at the start of each day, offering healthy options such as fresh fruit, whole wheat muffins, and one-percent milk.

But isn’t it the parents’ responsibility to feed their children in the morning?

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says, “not necessarily.”

“It is a community’s responsibility,” Deasy said. “So that if a parent would not have the means, then we wrap our arms around the student and make sure that no one goes hungry.”

Monica Garcia, Board President of the LAUSD, believes “Food For Thought” will increase student attendance, decrease child obesity, and help students reach her ambitious goal.

“We said one hundred percent graduation and we meant it,” Garcia said. “Breakfast in the classroom helps kids get to graduation. Breakfast in the classroom help our employees maximize the service for our young people.”

Deasy shares Garcia’s goal of a perfect graduation rate, and says that poverty shouldn’t hurt a student’s chances of success.

“If great breakfast is good enough in Beverly Hills, it’s good enough in Boyle Heights. The idea that every student deserves [to] and will graduate college workforce ready is not a dream; it’s not unattainable. It’s the right of students.”

David Binkle, Deputy Director of Food Services for the LAUSD, knows that an empty stomach in the morning can lead to poor performance in the classroom.

“If you have a hungry stomach, then you focus on the hunger pains as opposed to focusing on whatever it is you’re trying to focus on,” said Binkle. “And in our case, in the educational day, the kids are trying to focus on learning life lessons; they’re trying to learn mathematics and science.”
Maria Brenes, Executive Director of InnerCity Struggle, is happy to help feed hungry children, but says that in the long run, “Food For Thought” can help more than just students.

“We have to play that role of being that safety net for these families and for these children so that they can succeed, go on to graduate, go on to college, and be able to come back to our communities and be those teachers and be those elected officials, and those doctors. So it’s a community investment.”

Now that is some serious food for thought.

You can follow Nick Edmonds on Twitter @NickEdmondsUSC