Why Teachers Are Battling Against Free Breakfast in Their Classrooms


I'm Biv Dick Black, the Over Poster.
Principal Susan Lasken said her students have a hands-down favorite day of the week: Waffle Day.

That’s when nearly all 635 kids arrive at Sunnybrae Elementary School in Winnetka, California, promptly at 8 a.m. They are giddy and seemingly ravenous, ready to relish every bite of the golden discs slathered in warm syrup behind their desks.

“The kids just love it,” said Lasken, “On those days you can count on kids showing up on time.”

The popular breakfast is one of dozens of meals served through the Breakfast in the Classroom program, which uses the first 15 minutes of the school day to pump kids full of the healthy and nutritious calories they need to prep their brains for optimal learning.

Ample research shows students who participate in school breakfast programs have higher math scores than those who skip or rarely eat an early-morning meal. Absences and tardiness are also reduced when kids are fed at school.

While many of the country’s larger school districts already run similar programs—Baltimore, Houston, Chicago, San Diego—Los Angeles Unified School District recently expanded its Breakfast in the Classroom Program to a third of its campuses and now feeds nearly 200,000 children.

The boost in enrollment in the federally funded program is expected to add $6 million to L.A. Unified’s annual budget. A small percentage of that will be kicked back to each school without any strings attached. A delightful treat for cash-starved schools after several years of severe budget cuts.

And yet the program has come under sharp criticism from teachers and administrators. In an online survey conducted by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), 51 percent of teachers said they disliked the program and want to put an end to it.

Many are now asking, are full stomachs worth the tradeoffs?

The greatest concern is the loss of instructional time. District heads say the entire process of distributing the food, eating the meal, and cleaning up should take no more than 15 minutes a day. But teachers argue wrangling students can take up to 45 minutes, especially with kindergarteners and first graders.

UTLA President Warren Fletcher said teachers, whose job performance relies on improving test scores, simply can’t afford to lose that time.

Even if [Breakfast in the Classroom] is limited to 15 minutes, that is 1 hour and 15 minutes per week, or 2,700 minutes (almost eight entire school days) per year!

Fliers distributed by UTLA to parents broke down the math:

“Even if [Breakfast in the Classroom] is limited to 15 minutes, that is 1 hour and 15 minutes per week, or 2,700 minutes (almost eight entire school days) per year! That is 45 hours of instructional time per year that your child has lost!”

“It’s an unfortunate situation and I’m really torn about it,” said Lasken. She’s grateful students at Sunnybrae Elementary—all of whom qualify for free lunch—are getting an extra meal, but there’s no way to skirt the issue that it’s an added pressure on teachers.

“They don’t love it,” she said.

Half of the staff has complained about the time it steals from their prep time before school starts and the strain it puts on rushing through the day’s lesson plans.

“Contractually, I can’t give them more time. I’d have to pay them out of my own pocket if I wanted to make the day longer.”

Lasken said parent volunteers have been key to getting the routine down to a solid 20 minutes a day. She considers that a victory.

Another major problem is cleanliness in the classroom.

Anne Zerrien-Lee, a teacher at Esperanza Elementary School, responded to UTLA’s survey in an online video. In it she said cereal day is the worst. Cleanup involves pouring leftover milk into the classroom sink and making sure no “milk-crud” or cereal “slush” clogs the drain because that can take weeks to fix.

Juice and milk are consistently spilled on floors that are rarely mopped, and forgotten crumbs attract pests. An anonymous respondent to the survey said, “We live with a week’s worth of crumbs and a year’s worth of tracked through liquid.” Another added, “The classroom is not the appropriate place for children to have breakfast.”

Lastly, there’s the issue of food quality.

The waffles that are such a hit are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Not exactly “brain” food.

Research published in Physiology and Behavior found students who eat breakfasts containing a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates have an improved attention span and memory, and they experience fewer signs of frustration while working on school tasks. Meanwhile, those who consume a high-glycemic diet tend to crash after a few hours.

Proponents of the Breakfast in the Classroom program contend all meals adhere to the guidelines set out by the Obama administration’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a $4.5 billion initiative passed in 2010 to improve the nutritional value of school meals.

Nicola Edwards is a nutrition specialist with the California Food Policy Advocates, a nonprofit group that helps implement the breakfast program. Edwards said most school districts are going “above and beyond USDA standards.”

She adds that L.A. Unified has some of the most stringent standards in the country. The district posts nutritional information for all of its school menus online for anyone to access.

“All of the products are whole grain—even the waffles. The pancakes are made from sweet potatoes and they’ve done a lot to reduce the sugar in the food,” she said. “And meals are high in protein.” A recent focus group ranked the egg and cheese burrito among student favorites.

Edwards admits the breakfast program is flawed, but she’s convinced they’re only growing pains. “There’s no doubt that this program works, and it’s good for the kids and good for test scores.”

A number of impending changes should help streamline the program, she said. The district plans to provide teachers with more cleaning supplies, wet-naps will be added to meals, and the dreaded Cereal Day will be eliminated completely in the near future.

Plans to cut down on waste are also in the pipeline. Foods unpopular with kids, such as a breakfast bar with a strong taste of cumin, are being rotated out. Parents are now told not to feed children at home.

Last week, controversy over the program’s future lead to a rally outside of Hooper Elementary, a South Los Angeles school where 100 percent of students qualify for free lunch. More than 100 parents and cafeteria workers asked teachers to reverse their position before the school board votes on whether to continue serving breakfast in the classroom. The board will take on the controversial issue on May 14.

A majority of the seven school board members have said they support the program, but if it is eliminated, schools will go back to providing free breakfast in the cafeteria. The impact of the reversal would be twofold, according to district officials.

First, participation in the breakfast program would likely drop to previous levels, below 30 percent. That means most kids would go through the first part of the day hungry. And, second, the district will lose out on millions of federal dollars. Projections based on student enrollment estimate L.A. Unified will receive $20 million a year once the program is expanded through all grade levels.

UTLA President Warren Fletcher assured them, teachers want to compromise. “These problems can and must be overcome so students get a nutritional breakfast and a full instructional day. It is not an either/or for children.”

Guilty Spark

It's freeing and refreshing
I'm split on this. On one hand kids love a free breffist but they're animals, on the other hand the teachers are twats.

Hog's Big Ben

Getting ass-***** in The Octagon, brother.
every bite of the golden discs slathered in warm syrup

They're waffles. Settle down, Hemingway. It's not about you.


The stickiness of the slobbered syrup is what pisses off the teachers.

Extra work with no extra pay makes the teachers upset. They care not for the children.

mr. sin

Registered User
so prisoners can get free food but children cant?

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They just don't want the kids getting egg-cited in class. It could also be a cost-cutting issue, so I blame the Juice.

Creasy Bear

gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh
What better way to indoctrinate the little givesmedats into the Free Shit! culture than state-sponsored waffles?

Atomic Fireball

Well-Known Member
Sure, why should little Alejandro and Josefina's parents have to pay to feed their spawn? It's the dwindling pool of taxpayers' responsibility.

Motor Head

Do the gibesmedats pay for anything school related anymore?
Free breakfest
Free lunch
Food to take home on weekend programs
"stuff the bus" campaign where people are asked to donate school supplies
Salvation Army coat and gloves drives every fall. (They don't ask for old coats, they want new ones)
After school programs complete with dinner.
Let's not forget the schools end around on responsible parents by sending them list asking for them to double up on all school supply purchases to the extra can be re-distributed to the kids whose parents could give a fuck if their kid had a notebook or a pencil.

I remember in first grade my mom bought me the super deluxe 64 color box of crayons complete with sharpner. All the cool kids had the super deluxe 64 color box of crayons complete with sharpner. Did the apartment kids show up with this Rolls Royce of the artistic world? NO! If I was that same little kid today I would likely be suspended for making the apartment kids feel bad.


Wackbag Staff
I'm split on this. On one hand kids love a free breffist but they're animals, on the other hand the teachers are twats.
This. If it was an predominantly white school like @threeholepuncher s young lad goes to id say the teachers are just being cunts


Luckily, for us, they separated the problem children from the normal ones, most of the time. Lunch and gym were a crap shoot.

Creasy Bear

gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh
Grumpy Old Man Puncher: Back in my day...

There was a separate lunch line for the charity cases, and it was absolutely a walk of shame.

The "down the hill" kids had to wait in the shit food line and show their 'certified dirtbag' cards to get their prison food. Yes... they even served them shittier food than was available in the "cash line" that we "up the hill" kids waited on to get the good stuff.

I remember the shittums choking down shitty pasta covered in a watery, foul-smelling tomatoish sauce that was closer to orange than red. Leathery freezer-burnt green beans, mushy cling peach slices swimming in a mucousy fluid... and lard-slathered Wonder Bread. The lard was supposed to be "butter", but the lunch ladies were too lazy to stir in the yellow food coloring packet that came with the lard/butter, and they just smeared it on the bread white... nasty. The shittums never complained though... it was different back then, and the grubs were just happy to be getting fed.

And just look at the little charity cases now... feasting on delicious free waffles like proper lords of the manor. Bah! Get off my lawn!


Tounge puncher of fart boxes
I used to just walk the couple blocks home to a home cooked lunch in my own home

Creasy Bear

gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh
I used to just walk the couple blocks home to a home cooked lunch in my own home
...ten miles in the snow wearing cardboard shoes and bread bags for socks... uphill both ways. And lunch was a turnip... because of the war.
...ten miles in the snow wearing cardboard shoes and bread bags for socks... uphill both ways. And lunch was a turnip... because of the war.
You got a whole turnip? I had to share half a turnip with my 17 brothers and sisters and then we had the other half for dinner. Our TV only got 1 channel and that channel only aired 1 show. "The Turnip" aired from 3:14 - 3:22 every other Wednesday and we only got to watch it if we finished our homework first.


I like fistables.
"imagonna start a riot" was overheard in the hallways when word of taking away the waffles got out.