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L.A. Unified board will back classroom breakfast program

April 29, 2013|By Teresa Watanabe
  • Mayerly Tejano, 7, right, leans on a container that keeps food warm while she chats with her friends at Figueroa Street Elementary School as they prepare to deliver food for a classroom breakfast program.
Mayerly Tejano, 7, right, leans on a container that keeps food warm while… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

A majority of L.A. Unified School Board members said they will vote to continue a classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by the teachers union.

The program’s fate was thrown into question last week when L.A. Supt. John Deasy said he would eliminate it without explicit board direction to retain it. He said United Teachers Los Angeles had complained that serving breakfast in the classroom, rather than before school in the cafeteria, took up too much instructional time and created messes.

News of board support for the program came as another district union, Service Employees International Union Local 99, planned to rally at Hooper Avenue Elementary in South Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to save the classroom breakfasts. Union spokeswoman Blanca Gallegos said more than 900 school cafeteria workers would lose their jobs if the classroom breakfast program was shelved.

But the program no longer appears imperiled. At least four of seven board members said they would back the program, including Monica Garcia, Bennett Kayser, Nury Martinez and Steve Zimmer. Board member Tamar Galatzan is still undecided, according to a spokeswoman. The other members, Richard Vladovic and Marguerite LaMotte, could not be reached for comment.

“I am thrilled,” Deasy said Monday of the support for the program, which is set for a board vote May 14. “This is very good news for students who live in circumstances of poverty and need to eat.”

Kayser said he was impressed by the program in his first visit to observe it Monday at Micheltorena Street Elementary in Silver Lake. He said the children told him that the day’s fare – blueberry muffins – was not as popular as burritos, waffles and pancakes. But thanks to several parent volunteers, he said, the breakfast items were rolled in a cart to the classroom, unpacked, served, eaten and cleaned up all in just 10 minutes.

During the breakfast time, he said, students who finished early read books. “I’m not sure it was the highest-quality lesson, but certainly they weren’t fooling around,” he said. “Given the alternative of kids not eating, it’s a really great program.”

Martinez said the program has helped improve academic performance, student attention spans, attendance and health. "We know that well-nourished children make better students," she said in a statement, adding that she would support any initiative that ensures that all youths "begin each and every day ready to learn."

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