Palm Beach County Schools
Offers Free Breakfast for All
All 175,000 Palm Beach County Public School students are being offered a free breakfast and the only requirement to receive it is to show up half an hour before school starts, according to an article appearing in the Palm Beach Post (9-6-2012). Free breakfasts were previously offered at county schools where 80% of students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches. Next the restriction was lowered to 50% of students demonstrating need, then 40%, and now all 187 schools in the district offer free breakfast to every student, five days a week, regardless of need.
The school breakfast is designed to meet 25% of a student’s recommended dietary allowance. Offerings include pancake sausage wraps, burritos, quesadillas, blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, and cold cereal. Menus are available in English, Spanish, Haitian-Creole, and Portuguese.
The breakfasts will not deplete the local school district budget because the money to fund the $96 million Food Services program comes from state and federal grants. Allison Monbleau, General Manger of School Food Service said, “This will go from now until the end of time, if we can swing it.”
Palm Beach County School Board member Chuck Shaw stated that missing breakfast is often a question of time rather than a student’s economic situation. Fellow school board member Debra Robinson agreed, saying she recalls difficulties finding time to feed her children breakfast before school.
Across the country breakfast and dinner are being added to students’ school-day expectations. School official say they expect better behavior and improved academic performance once children are offered school breakfast although there is no definitive study demonstrating such a correlation.
Miami-Dade Public Schools Food and Nutrition Administrative Director Penny Parham was quoted in the Palm Beach Post saying, “There’s no downside to kids eating breakfast.” But there is a downside for everyone if state and national budgets can’t afford the expenditure. Proponents of the program failed to explain the downside of children whose families have plenty of money eating breakfast at home; or why parents like Debra Robinson can’t give their children breakfast themselves if their children are already getting up 30 minutes earlier to get to school in time for breakfast at taxpayer expense.