Wall Street Journal Bill Would Boost Free Breakfasts in Classrooms by Mara Gay
The New York City Department of Education would be required to report participation rates in free school-meal programs every year, under a new bill set to be introduced in the City Council Tuesday.
The legislation is a clear effort to push the de Blasio administration to offer free in-classroom breakfast, or “breakfast before the bell,” in all city schools, a policy change anti-poverty advocates say is critical to improving participation in the city’s free-breakfast program.
Free breakfast has been available to all 1.1 million New York City school students since 2003. All city schools offer the meal before the school day begins, but some also serve breakfast in classrooms after the start of school, or provide bagged breakfasts that children can eat in the classroom.
“We need to provide some transparency around what schools are doing,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, an Upper East Side Democrat and co-sponsor of the legislation. Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin is the bill’s other co-sponsor.
Under the bill, the Department of Education would be required to publicly post the number of students who receive free breakfast before and after the school day begins, as well as the number of schools that have a salad bar in their cafeteria, and the number of students served after-school snacks and dinner.
The department would also have to include the steps it has taken to increase participation in the free-meals programs each year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his campaign that he supported bringing breakfast into the classroom, but more than a year after he took office, the program has yet to be implemented citywide.
A spokesman for Mr. Blasio said the mayor would review the legislation. “We’re proud of our partnership with the council expanding free lunch to tens of thousands more students last year,” the spokesman, said.
Mr. Kallos noted that the nonprofit Food Research & Action Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, ranked New York City last among large public school districts last year in getting free breakfast to children who need the meal. “We have to do better than that,” he said.