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Orange County Focus

ANAHEIM : Breakfast Program at School Lauded

November 04, 1993|TERRY SPENCER

Fourth-grader Luis Hernandez told Gayle Wilson, the governor's wife, that he rarely gets breakfast at home and that before Paul Revere Elementary started serving the meal last year, he usually went hungry until lunch.

And teacher Cherie Ludwick said that before the school offered breakfast, many of her first-grade students were so listless by midmorning that she sometimes handed out crackers and raisins to give them a boost.

Wilson and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles) were at Revere on Wednesday to help boost a state program that will provide $10,000 grants to 300 school districts willing to start serving free and reduced-cost breakfasts to low-income students.

Both cited Revere Elementary as an example of how a school serving breakfast to students improves work and attendance.

Only about half of the state's public schools serve breakfast, they said, and about 1 million low-income students either do not or cannot take part in the program. The meals are paid for by federal and state grants.

"In California, we have a lot of working moms and dads who don't have the time or won't take the time to make sure that their children are served a good breakfast and not just a Pop Tart and a Coke," Wilson said. "Studies have shown marked improvement in the test scores, grades and behavior of participants" who are well-fed.

Wilson and Moore cited a 1989 study by the American Journal of Diseases of Children that showed low-income students who participate in a school breakfast program had significant academic improvement in reading, math and English while their absentee rate dropped.

"Regardless of the number of education reforms that are in place, unless a child has enough food to eat, it is very difficult for him or her to learn," Moore said.

The Anaheim City School District began serving breakfasts last year and now offers the meal at eight of its 21 schools. Two more schools will begin serving breakfast this month and five others will be on the program by June.

It is too early to conclude that test scores have improved at district schools serving breakfast, Supt. Meliton Lopez said. But he said it appears to be true.

Ludwick has no doubts.

"I have seen a tremendous difference in the students' concentration and attention levels," she said. "A lot of my students were getting sick in the morning. . . . And the breakfast program does get them here."

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