Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to boost the number of students who eat school breakfast—but a new report shows that during his first six months in office, that number actually fell. NY1's Lindsey Christ looks at the struggle over school breakfast as part of our Fit Kids coverage this month.
At M.S. 328, the first meal begins after the first bell. It's called "breakfast in the classroom" and is something students and hunger experts say can change the whole day.
"It's a good idea because we usually need the energy and the concentration," says student Bryan Tapia.
When it comes to providing needy students with breakfast, New York ranks next to last among 62 districts in the nation.
A study by the Food Research and Action Center shows 6,000 fewer students ate the breakfasts last school year compared to the year before. And that's costing the city up to $100 million a year in federal funds.
"It's bad enough when we lose to Boston and Houston and Chicago in sports, but it's truly unconsciounable when we lose to them in feeding our children," says Joel Berg of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger.
Advocates say that's because most schools serve breakfast in the cafeteria before the classes begin and most kids don't participate— either because they can't get there in time or they don't want to look like they need a handout.
"The answer for this that we have seen working around the country in cities from Newark to Chicago to Los Angeles to Dallas is to make breakfast a part of the school day, make breakfast available in the classroom," says Josh Wachs of Share Our Strength.
But despite Mayor de Blasio's campaign promise to bring this routine to all 1,800 city schools, just 74 have comprehensive programs.
"We are here today to prod the mayor to keep his campaign pledge to say that every kid in every classroom is going to get a free breakfast," Berg says.
The DOE says it plans to get breakfast into every classroom by September and that it's just working through, "operational issues."
At M.S. 382, the principal says it pays off.
"The most important important change is lateness. Students were stopping at the bodega and buying unhealthy food," says principal Olga Quiles. "Also, I used to have students cutting class and wandering the hallways and when you'd ask them 'why?' 'I'm looking for something to eat. I'm hungry.'"
She says breakfast in the classroom has "erased all of those issues."