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CPS Board Passes Free Breakfast Program for All Students

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 27, 2011 1:30PM

2011_1_27_school_breakfast.jpg The Chicago Public Schools Board approved a measure yesterday offering free breakfasts at all of its schools, giving its 410,000 students an opportunity to have a healthy meal before the start of classes.

This expansion of a federally funded program will give students in lower income neighborhoods the chance to actually have a meal before the start of classes. Studies have shown that students who skip breakfast have reduced attention spans, lag behind their classmates in their studies, and are more likely to be overweight and develop chronic health issues. Less than half the children across thee country who actually qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast at school actually receive it.

But some parents aren't happy about it. More than 1,100 parents representing 21 CPS schools signed a petition opposing the plan, taking the stance that the 10-15 minutes used to serve breakfast in class will cut into learning time. Sarah Putrim, a mother of three Blaine Elementary School students in the Lakeview neighborhood, told the Tribune, "Instructional time is so important to us. "And the federal and state standards that have been imposed on our school leave very little wiggle room for extra things." Another parent of a Blaine Elementary student was concerned about sugar and other additives that would compromise what the students eat at home. 25 percent of Blaine students qualify for the free breakfast program.

In response to the petition, CPS Board President Mary Richardson-Lowry told the Tribune, "We understand you have 1,100 signatures, but we have 410,000 students we need to consider." Another concern is cost. The breakfast program costs $41 million and school meals chief Louise Esaian said it potentially could bring an additional $8.9 million in revenue to help offset the program's increased expenses. BUt they're keeping the financial details close to the vest for now.