In Ventura County, only 15% of children eligible for free or reduced-price school breakfasts get to eat them, according to the California Department of Education.
The Oxnard Elementary School District--one of the county's largest, serving some of its poorest communities--is trying to phase in breakfast at the neediest of its 15 elementary schools within a year. Two years ago, officials started serving breakfast at Juanita Elementary School in the heart of Oxnard's poorest neighborhood, La Colonia. There was a notable jump in student classroom performance, says Principal Tony Zubia, who says some officials credit the breakfasts with boosting CLAS test scores at the school, now renamed Cesar E. Chavez School.
"The kids were more attentive; we didn't have as many kids coming in to me about stubborn problems, or feeling lightheaded because they hadn't eaten," Zubia said. Within a month, breakfast will be served at two more elementary schools in the 14,000-student district.
The Hueneme School District also is phasing in breakfast programs at five needy elementary schools in Port Hueneme and south Oxnard, says Associate Supt. Jeff Baarstad, who oversees 11 schools and 7,860 students. Three elementary schools already serve breakfast. The district has no plans, however, to serve breakfast at two needy junior high schools--Blackstock Elementary and Green Elementary. Younger students may not be able to feed themselves if left to their own devices, but junior-high students can look after themselves, Baarstad says.