Each day, more than 200,000 impoverished elementary school students throughout Los Angeles have access to free, nutritious meals. The meals are made possible by the broader Breakfast in Classrooms (BIC) program, funded by a bevy of private companies, including Wal-Mart. The program provides 25 million kids across the U.S. with healthy meals. Now, a record […]
Each day, more than 200,000 impoverished elementary school students throughout Los Angeles have access to free, nutritious meals. The meals are made possible by the broader Breakfast in Classrooms (BIC) program, funded by a bevy of private companies, including Wal-Mart. The program provides 25 million kids across the U.S. with healthy meals. Now, a record number of teachers have complained that BIC foods are unhealthy, poorly labeled and are drawing rats, bugs and other pests into their classrooms.
With complaints mounting, and $85 billion in sequestration cuts threatening other meal programs like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch Program, millions of impoverished students may go malnourished.
A survey conducted last month by the Los Angeles Unified School District found that a majority of teachers are opposed to BIC. According to the survey results, 52 percent of teachers in that district noted an increase in rodents and bugs in their classrooms, allegedly because the BIC program allows students to eat meals at their desks.
The BIC program was introduced November 2011 and has since been implemented in 274 L.A. schools, with plans to expand to 676 K-12 schools. The expansion could hit a snag after a majority of teachers reported the worsening conditions of their classrooms.
Seventy-eight percent of teachers also claim that BIC is cutting into classroom time, consuming more than the 10 minutes currently allotted by the district. More than half of teachers say that they would support BIC if time and sanitation issues are resolved.
Many have commented openly about the poor quality of the meals, with the United Teachers of Los Angeles saying, “Teachers also report that the breakfast foods served are loaded with sugar and carbohydrates, and most foods labels are missing from the packaging. They are concerned that the food is not nutritious. Teachers also commented about receiving expired food, spoiled milk and rotten fruit from kitchen services.”
Funding for other programs, like the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, have suffered steep budget cuts in recent months.That federal program provides nutritionally balanced, low‐cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day.
These budget reductions, which went into effect in February, come as part of the broader sequestration cuts of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, designed to slash the national deficit that stands at more than $16 trillion.
Additionally, roughly $600 million is set to be cut from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants and Children, a program providing nutritious food subsidies to poor pregnant women, as well as poor women with infants and children under the age of 5.